FORT LAUDERDALE — Show us the jobs. That's what Republican and Democratic legislators said Tuesday during informal meetings with Gov.-elect Rick Scott as he followed through on a campaign promise to sit down with state leaders before taking office in January.
"I would hope whatever we discuss in the legislature will be tied to jobs. I have no problem talking about giving credits and tax breaks as long as there is documented job creation," Miami Republican Rep. Esteban Bovo said.
Too often incentives are given to industries promising to create jobs, he said, but when "you ask them, 'Show me exactly where the jobs are at'...that part of the discussion always goes mute."
Several legislators said they want a hands-on governor who will attract businesses and call corporate CEOs from around the country and encourage them to come to the state.
"Florida's not even on their radar. Someone has to go out there and sell it," said Rep. Mack Bernard, a Democrat who said parts of his South Florida district have unemployment rates of higher than 40 percent.
Officials also told Scott that reforming the state's health care and education policies will drive job creation and encourage businesses to relocate to Florida.
Scott, a political outsider and Republican who ran on his business background — he founded two health care providers — said little during the hourlong meetings, stressing he wants "to understand their issues and I want to try to find common ground."
"I think everyone in this state and around the country knows we've got to get this economy going," he said. "Whether you're an independent, a Democrat or a Republican, the biggest issue is jobs."
Legislators also touched on immigration, pension funds for government workers and the foreclosure crisis.
Democratic Sen. Jeremy Ring said foreclosures are the biggest issue in his Margate district and urged Scott to create a court system dedicated to addressing foreclosures to clear the backlog.
"You have to solve the court issue first before you solve the bank issue," Ring said.
Rep. Oscar Braynon II, a Democrat from Miami Gardens, encouraged Scott to consider shifting the route of the proposed Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail line to the Miami-Orlando corridor.
"What if (tourists) could hop off a cruise ship in Miami and take a 15-minute train to go to Orlando and Disney World?" he said. "It makes the entire state a destination."
Scott, who isn't a fan of the Miami-Orlando rail project, said he wants to see the feasibility study and make sure there's a good return for taxpayers before making any decisions. The rail project, funded partly by federal stimulus money, would create hundreds of permanent jobs and thousands more during construction in central Florida.
Legislators from both parties said they were impressed by Scott's desire to listen and learn.
"I know it's not going to be an easy session. I know there are going to be a lot of disagreements. It's not about any one party. It's about the people and the issues that are affecting them," said Democratic Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed.