Politics & Government

Sam Youngman: Fla. governor makes long trip to Lexington for 40 jobs and a crass political stunt

Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott. AP

Florida Gov. Rick Scott was all smiles Tuesday morning as he walked up Broadway in downtown Lexington, warmly greeting the throng of Kentucky reporters waiting for him.

Is something so terribly wrong with the technological infrastructure in Tallahassee that he couldn't send us an email?

Why else would Scott feel compelled to travel to Kentucky to spike the football in the faces of Bluegrass State workers when a news release from Florida would've sufficed?

On its face, the purpose of the Florida governor's visit was to meet with Kentucky businesses and announce that he had successfully poached 40 potential aerospace jobs from the commonwealth.

Standing next to Chris Yeazel, the owner of 1st Choice Aerospace, Scott announced that Yeazel's company will take its $7 million expansion to Florida instead of Kentucky, and that Scott will meet with other Kentucky businesses while he is in the state.

"They made a choice," Scott said. "They could either expand in Kentucky or they could expand in Florida. And they chose Florida. That means 40 families in Florida are going to have a great job because Florida's a great place to do business."

Scott cited Florida's lower taxes, higher credit rating, less regulation and, of course, "right-to-work" laws that mean "you don't have to join a union if you don't want to."

Yeazel did not mention union laws as a reason for choosing to expand in Florida, saying instead that South Florida has a talent pool of aviation maintenance workers and easier access to Europe and South America.

In fact, 1st Choice Aerospace is keeping its campus in Hebron and the 43 jobs there.

Scott didn't mention that.

He also didn't mention his role with the Republican Governors Association.

The RGA pumped $18 million into Scott's re-election committee last year, and Scott is on the Washington, D.C.-based group's executive committee.

The RGA has spent heavily in Kentucky throughout the summer, running ads on behalf of Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin and targeting Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway.

So I asked Scott, given his position with the RGA, why Kentuckians shouldn't view his grandstanding as a crass political stunt with the goal of helping get Bevin elected.

He ducked the question.

"So I got elected 41/2 years ago, and in four years and eight months, we've added 940,000 jobs," Scott replied.

That's a lot of jobs. Of course, Florida's unemployment rate is 5.3 percent, compared to Kentucky's 5.2 percent.

Ostensibly, Scott's message was that Florida is open for business. The reality is that his message was, "elect Bevin or Florida will come back for more Kentucky jobs."

So surely Bevin, who often proclaims his love for the commonwealth, was thoroughly appalled and quickly denounced Scott's ploy, right?

Nope.

Instead, Bevin's campaign sent out a news release Tuesday morning boasting that Bevin has almost 12,000 Twitter followers.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes quickly issued a statement condemning Scott.

"Despite what Gov. Scott claims, Kentucky jobs are not flowing to Florida, and I would put our pro-business climate up against the sunshine state's any day," Grimes said.

Bevin finally weighed in on Scott's visit Tuesday afternoon, hours after this column was first published online.

But instead of criticizing Scott, Bevin played along, warning that "as long as Kentucky is led by political insiders like (Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial nominee) Jack Conway who embrace the status quo and Frankfort special interests, our state will continue to get passed over for new jobs or, worse still, other states will look to poach the ones we already have."

Kentucky isn't the only state where Scott is taking this craven routine, having already visited Pennsylvania, California and New York — all states with Democratic governors.

As The Courier-Journal recently mentioned, Scott has done this sort of thing before in Kentucky. As a businessman, he moved Columbia/HCA's headquarters to Nashville in 1995 just 10 months after moving to Louisville.

On Tuesday morning, Scott fondly recalled his time in Kentucky, mentioning that he once lived here and calling it "a beautiful state."

"I love all the rolling hills, clearly all the people," Scott said.

Clearly.

Scott is not wrong that Florida has assets that make it an attractive place to expand and grow a business. He's right that the Sunshine State has a better credit rating and no personal income tax.

But he was completely wrong to do his tacky end-zone dance within view of Rupp Arena.

So, Gov. Scott, it's time to get out of Kentucky, and take your cheap political stunts with you.

Kentuckians might well decide in November that Bevin is the best choice to be governor, and that legislation dealing with union membership is the silver bullet to solve the state's economic woes. Or maybe they won't.

But we are perfectly capable of deciding that on our own without the strong-arm tactics of a grinning political extortionist.

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