TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Gov. Rick Scott's approval rating dropped to a new low following Florida's annual legislative session and passage of an austere Scott-supported budget, which also got low marks from voters in a poll released Wednesday.
The Republican governor has been on the job less than five months, but Florida voters disapprove of the way he's been going about it by a 57 percent to 29 percent margin, according to the Quinnipiac University poll.
Scott, though, has plenty of company. Voters rated the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature about the same as the governor. They disapprove of the lawmakers' work 56 percent to 27 percent.
Scott and the Legislature each are down from 35 percent approval ratings in a similar poll released April 6, a month before the session ended.
"It probably doesn't make him feel any better that the state Legislature is sharing the basement suite in the eyes of the electorate," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Hamden, Conn., university's Polling Institute. "The good news for the governor is that he has three and a half years to turn public opinion around."
Pollsters called 1,196 registered voters on cellular and land telephone lines May 17 through 23. The poll has an error rate of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.
"Governor Scott wasn't elected to be most popular, he was elected to turn Florida's economy around and help people get back to work," Scott spokesman Lane Wright said in an email.
Wright added that Scott "will continue to do what's right for Florida, making the tough calls and holding government accountable" when he signs the budget into law Thursday. Scott has said that while he'll sign the spending plan that goes into effect July 1, he'll also pare it down through line item vetoes.
Voters disapproved of the $69.7 billion budget by 53 percent to 24 percent.
The governor has praised lawmakers for balancing the budget by cutting nearly $4 billion in spending for education, health care and other services while also reducing taxes about $300 million.
The spending cuts are expected to result in thousands of layoffs from public schools and state government.
The budget also raises college and university tuition while effectively reducing public employees' pay 3 percent through a new requirement that they contribute that amount of their wages to the state's retirement system.
Scott didn't seek tuition increases but proposed a higher 5 percent employee contribution and a much bigger $1.7 billion cut in taxes and fees. He wants to reduce taxes paid by businesses because he believes that will encourage more companies to locate and expand in Florida, thus creating new private sector jobs.
Voters, though, by a 61 percent to 26 percent margin don't think the new budget will help with job creation.
"The perceived fairness of the governor's budget is crucial," Brown said. "When voters by almost 2 to 1 say his approach is unfair to them, that's a giant flashing political warning sign."
Only 29 percent of voters polled said they believed the budget is fair to people like themselves while 54 percent said it was unfair.
As for the spending cuts, 47 percent said they go too far, 18 percent said they don't go far enough and 22 percent said they're about right.
Only 23 percent said they thought the cuts will help Florida's economy while 38 percent said they will hurt and 31 percent said they won't make any difference.
On another issue, 74 percent said property insurance that covers hurricanes, fires and other hazards is getting more expensive in Florida while 63 percent also said it's getting harder to obtain.
Scott recently signed a law sought by the insurance industry that's designed to encourage more companies to offer coverage in Florida, but critics say it'll mean higher premiums for homeowners.
"Whether the new law changes public attitudes about insurance in Florida, only time will tell," Brown said. "There is no doubt the electorate sees a crying need for something to make getting and paying for property insurance in Florida less onerous."
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