Republican Rick Scott declared "job creation is a mission" after being sworn in Tuesday as Florida's 45th governor, and he vowed to move swiftly on an agenda of lower taxes, smaller government and less regulation.
Scott told the crowd gathered outside the historic Capitol that he understands the hardship of unemployment because his father was often laid off and his mother had to take on ironing work to put food on the table.
"I have a clear memory of their fear and uncertainty as they struggled to provide for five kids," the 58-year-old millionaire said. "So, for me, job creation is a mission. My personal memories fortify my commitment to this mission. There are millions of families across Florida whose future depends on the steps we take to create jobs."
The former hospital company CEO said there are three forces that reduce the chances for businesses to succeed: taxation, regulation and litigation.
"Together those three form The Axis of Unemployment. Left unchecked, they choke off productive activity," Scott said. "The state of Florida raises enough current revenues to meet its needs. It has to focus on spending those revenues smarter, setting better priorities and demanding more accountability. We'll also re-examine every regulation to make sure its benefits outweigh its costs."
The new governor said his first act will be to create a state office to review all proposed and existing regulations to determine their impact on job creation.
Scott occasionally struggled reading from a teleprompter, but he turned slipups into jokes, such as when he was talking about his plan to review every state agency from top to bottom.
"We'll get rid of the agencies," Scott declared, before pausing with a laugh and correcting that he meant to say he would get rid of programs that don't work. "That will be in the paper. That wasn't part of the script."
Scott seemed relaxed before and after the speech and he smiled broadly while he and his wife Ann greeted elected officials and dignitaries. Once he completed his oath, cannons were fired on the street that leads to the old Capitol and military jets flew overhead.
Unknown to many Floridians when he entered the governor's race last spring, Scott at the time frustrated many in the Republican establishment who were coalescing around Attorney General Bill McCollum. Scott overcame negative attacks that focused on his former role as CEO of Columbia/HCA; he was ousted after a Medicare fraud investigation led to the company paying a $1.7 billion settlement.
Never having run for office, Scott capitalized on his outsider status. His promise of jobs appealed to angry voters frustrated with the economy and politics as usual.
He said he wanted to make the state more attractive by gradually phasing out the corporate income tax, which provides Florida with about $2 billion a year. He also said he wanted to further protect businesses from lawsuits and said he would look at every government agency cost and ask if the state is getting a return on the investment.
Scott replaces Gov. Charlie Crist, who didn't seek a second term to mount an ultimately unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate. Backers say Scott will bring a new approach to the governor's post.
"There will be a difference in what you had and what you've got. He is not a cheerleading kind of guy. Charlie had a different style as governor," lobbyist Ron Book said. "He was an eternal optimist. This guy is more of a realist to what he's facing ... He's going to move things."
Scott said Florida has always been a place for dreamers: "The place where somebody with a big new idea could get started. Railroads into the wilderness, a magic kingdom, a trip to the moon, freedom from a foreign tyrant, better health, life without winter," Scott said. "Large and small, dreams are the stuff that Florida is made of."
Crist and former Gov. Jeb Bush attended the ceremony.
"It was just great. I just wish him the very best. I know that he'll do a great job and work hard for the people of Florida," Crist said. "It's a tough time to come into office, but I know that Governor Scott will put his full effort into it."
Also taking the oath of office was Jennifer Carroll, who became Florida's first black lieutenant governor and the first woman elected to the position.
At a prayer breakfast to begin Tuesday's events, Scott talked about his deep faith in Jesus Christ in addressing supporters.
"You have prayed for me. You've gone through all the ups and downs of my life in this campaign, and don't stop praying. All of us that are elected have a wonderful opportunity to make this a better place for the great state of Florida," Scott said. "The only way we can do that is lead by virtue, lead with character and do all the right things."
He ended his first speech as governor with the slogan from his campaign.
"May God bless the great state of Florida. Let's get to work."