Gov. Scott goes three-for-three on his session priorities

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Gov. Rick Scott was three for three on the major issues he said he wanted lawmakers to pass in his second legislative session, with the Legislature sending him an auto insurance bill he wanted, an education spending increase he demanded and tax cuts for which he’d pushed, reports David Royse of the News Service of Florida

“Trifecta!” Scott spokesman Brian Burgess said on Twitter shortly after a key Senate vote on no-fault auto insurance that remained in doubt until late Friday on the last day of the legislative session.

The governor’s own Twitter feed also crowed about the success.

“Auto insurance fraud reform, my job creation agenda (and) $1B for K-12 education,” Scott, or whoever does his tweeting, said. “This session has been a victory for all Floridians.”

A spokeswoman for the governor said he was already writing thank you notes to lawmakers for the PIP vote before the session had adjourned.

The reform of the PIP system, which provides no-fault medical coverage for drivers in Florida, had become one of the governor’s biggest talking points in recent weeks, but looked in doubt with differing versions of legislation to reduce fraud up in the two legislative chambers as time wound down. Scott made the rounds of the state’s AM radio stations on Friday morning to keep up the call for a fix.

Scott in his second year in office has broadened his mantra – after spending the first several months of his term rarely uttering anything more than a constant pitch for job creation.

But this year, Scott, elected in 2010, added a call for keeping people’s cost of daily living down to his chief priorities, and the PIP fix was item number one in that area.

The bill seeks to reduce fraud that Scott has repeatedly said costs Floridians $1 billion a year in higher premiums.

“Members of the Legislature heard our call to put Floridians ahead of special interests and combat the fraud that has become a billion dollar tax on drivers,” Scott said in a statement after the PIP vote late Friday.

“This is a bill that delivers on my promise to reduce the cost of living in this state by reducing fraud, stopping the growing cost related to accident fraud and ultimately saving Floridians money that otherwise would have found its way into the pockets of fraudsters, unethical providers and trial lawyers.”

Scott also this year had a new interest in K-12 education, particularly a call for a $1 billion increase in the basic education budget. In his State of the State address, the governor said he wouldn’t accept anything less, and the budget the Legislature was set to approve Friday night gave him what he wanted.

Critics complained it still doesn’t get the state back to where it was before last year, when lawmakers cut more than $1.3 billion in education spending, but Scott was claiming victory on that issue nonetheless.

Lawmakers also obliged Scott’s continuing push for lower taxes. On Friday they passed a package of tax breaks that included another step in Scott’s efforts to shrink the state’s corporate income tax, with an eye toward eventually eliminating it. Current law exempts the first $25,000 in income from the tax. The bill (HB 7087) lawmakers sent Scott Friday would increase the exemption to $50,000, providing an estimated $9.9 million in tax savings during the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Earlier in the week, they gave Scott another tax break for small businesses, sending him a measure that will prevent unemployment compensation taxes from going up as much as was anticipated. Employers were looking at a $100 per worker increase in the unemployment compensation tax to keep up with the state’s continuing high jobless claims, but lawmakers voted to delay paying back the federal government on a loan to allow for that increase to be closer to $50 per worker.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.