TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Gov. Rick Scott, who says he was elected to create more jobs in Florida, plans to spend his second year again pushing an agenda calling for more tax cuts, more money for ports and roads, and trying to get college students to graduate in fields where there are jobs.
Scott, who saw his poll numbers sink this year amid an aggressive budget-cutting agenda, is making no apologies for his continued emphasis on cutting taxes as part of his effort to pump up the state's stalled economy.
"If we don't create jobs, there's no money for safety nets, there's no money for anything we care about," Scott told a group of Tallahassee business owners during a luncheon Tuesday.
Scott is expected to lay out key components of his 2012 legislative agenda during a visit to Orlando on Wednesday.
But he used the speech to business owners to offer some highlights of what he called his job creation priorities for the coming year. Scott is expected to make further announcements this fall on other parts of his legislative agenda.
Scott wants to make further cuts in the state's corporate income tax and said he also wants to look at other costly fees for businesses. During his campaign, Scott had said he wants to phase out the corporate income tax entirely.
He also said on Tuesday that he wants to crack down on regional workforce boards, revamp the state's unemployment system, and create incentives to make sure that students are graduating from state universities in science, engineering and math - fields with a need for skilled workers.
The governor said he cannot support letting universities to just raise tuition in tough times to pay for college programs that may not be needed.
Scott is forging ahead even though state economists are predicting that Florida's tax collections will fall short by $1.3 billion to $1.7 billion over the next two years.
Just a few weeks ago, lawmakers were told there was a small chance of a budget surplus for 2012. But that has been wiped away as tax collections have dropped below what economists were predicting just a few months ago.
Florida relies primarily on the state's 6 percent sales tax to balance its budget.
The new estimates drawn up Tuesday suggest that economists still anticipate a small amount of growth in tax collections this year and next year, but not as much as they predicted in the spring.
But still the drop in expected collections means Scott and lawmakers will be confronted with a budget gap since other costs, including Medicaid, continue to rise during a down economy.
Property values also continue to decline meaning there are less local property taxes available for schools. Legislators would have to decide whether or not to replace the local money with state dollars.
Scott as well as Republican leaders have insisted they will not raise taxes in order to fill the potential shortfall.
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