« Appeals court says challenge to HCA trauma centers should proceed | Main | More Democrats decry 'harmful, spiteful' ban on 'navigators' as Rick Scott avoids issue »

Scott broadens his campaign theme: blame Florida's recession on Crist

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday told a gathering of Florida business and political leaders that the recession that befell Florida under the watch of his predecessor “never should have happened.” 

“We never should have had that downturn,’’ Scott told the Sayfie Review Florida Leaders Summit in Orlando, suggesting that Florida’s economic troubles in the midst of the global recession that spiraled out of control in 2008 after the fall of the nation’s largest investment banks was the fault of his predecessor, former Gov. Charlie Crist. 

Crist, now a Democrat, is the governor’s likely challenger in 2014 but neither has officially announced a campaign.

Nonetheless, Scott’s comment to the crowd, unadorned by context or explanation, was the latest sign that the governor is broadening his campaign talking points even though he has not officially announced his re-election bid.

“If you think about it our country, all of our states are competing for jobs,’’ Scott told reporters after his remarks to the group. “We’re a state that has no income tax; we’ve never had one; we’re a right to work state, low business tax; we’ve got the expansion of the Panama Canal. We’re the gateway to Latin America. So if you think about that, we shouldn’t have had the downturn. We shouldn’t have lost those 832,000 jobs before I became governor.”

The Sayfie Review Florida Leaders Summit is a two-day brain-storming session designed to bring thought leaders together to discuss trends in tourism, transportation, energy, education, health care and water. The event was  organized by Justin Sayfie, founder of the state’s largest news aggregation site.

The governor, who has retained a political consultant and kept his political committee open ever since he took office in 2011, has chosen to govern as if he is running a perpetual campaign.

In an opinion piece posted on the opinion web site, ContextFlorida, former state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami, countered the governor's criticism of both Crist and former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink. 

"Floridians know better." Gelber wrote. "They know the last recession was global in scope and crippled Florida because our economy was so dependent upon housing and construction. If Scott is going to blame Crist and Sink for that recession, he better be prepared to also blame the speaker of the Florida House at the time, Marco Rubio, and the majority whip of the Legislature, who Scott chose as his lieutenant governor."

Scott spent the summer promoting job announcements around the state and conducting ceremonial bill signings. In the last three years his political committee, Let’s Get to Work, had raised $13 million by the end of July, even without a re-election bid, and the governor has said he will raise $25 million by January.

Last week, Scott launched a “It’s Your Money” tour to push for $500 million in unspecified tax cuts. He said he is soliciting ideas for what taxes to cut and Florida Republican leaders, who control the Legislature, have said they welcome the concept.

In his brief remarks to the crowd of about 100 people, Scott did not address any of the issues being tackled in the two-day summit. The theme for the first day: Disruption as panelists focused on a futuristic Florida. Among the topics: intergrating online education with higher education, protecting scarce water resources, customer access to distributive energy, expanded casino gambling, and transportation systems that require drivers to pay by the mile.

Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington was the keynote speaker Thursday, telling the group that Florida was a state “from which great ideas can come.”

Friday’s schedule features break-out sessions on each of the issues, a breakfast speech by CNBC Analyst Ron Insana and lunchtime speeches by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzeninski of MSNBC.

The event was sponsored by a line-up of powerful industries: Wayne Huizenga Jr., Florida Blue, Auto Nation, Google, Gulf Power, Mosaic, Las Vegas Sands, Health Management Associates, AutoNation, Florida Power & Light, AT&T, Duke Energy, Healthy Florida Works, TECO, University of Miami and JM Family Enterprises.