The economic picture in Florida is not pretty: there were 1.1 million Floridians unemployed last month, and 55 of Florida’s 67 counties reported double-digit unemployment. It has the fifth-highest foreclosure rate in the country, and the state is facing a $3 billion budget shortfall, including a $1.5 billion shortfall for pressing needs like schools and courts.
Former health care executive and multi-millionaire Rick Scott (R) won the governorship this fall by claiming to be a “businessman with no ties to special interests” that would revitalize the state and spur job growth. Before he’s even taken office, however, some Floridians are criticizing Scott for planning an extravagant inauguration ceremony in the midst of the state’s economic turmoil. The Governor’s Inaugural Ball will take place in Tallahassee on Jan. 4, and any Floridian that can scrape together $95 can attend. So far, Scott — who won by the narrowest margin in 134 years in a Florida gubernatorial race — has raised $2 million for the ball, primarily from large corporations that conduct business in the state. Recent letters to the editor in Florida newspapers indicate some of Scott’s constituents find the ceremony offensive:
The governor-elect has so far raised $2 million for his inauguration bash and would welcome more. Would it not be a grand gesture if Rick Scott would say that he wants a low-key inauguration? He could either return all the money to his donors or take the $2 million and spend it on the people of Florida who really need it.Does he know how many people are in shelters? How many rely on soup kitchens to get at least one meal a day? Does he know that there are thousands out there living in misery that need help?
— Michael Voris of Odessa
When challenged on the expensive ceremony, Scott responded that “he’s not sure what the right number is” to spend on an inauguration, and that “it’s important to have a celebration.’’ This is a view that was not held by his predecessor, Gov. Charlie Crist, who canceled his inaugural ceremony in 2006 after similar criticisms over the cost and scale of the party. “I made a mistake, and, yes, it was a doozy,” Crist said at the time. “Upon reflection, it doesn’t feel right to me when there are people having trouble paying their insurance bills and making ends meet.”
Elsewhere in the country, New York Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo is planning “a muted affair” which he says is “in tune with the economic uncertainty wracking New Yorkers.” Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) is also planning a “less glitzy” inauguration ceremony “in light of the estimated $20 billion budget shortfall Texas is expecting to face.” Surely they won’t have as much fun as Scott, however.
(HT: Hotline On Call)