Ten Questions for the Candidates

Questions on key issues are asked of the four candidates in Florida’s race for governor. On Nov. 12, voters from the Panhandle to the Keys will elect the 44th Governor of the State of Florida. To help voters decide, Tallahassee Magazine asked the leading candidates their opinion on 10 topics that will shape their candidacy. Their answers are below, some of which have been edited for space: QUESTION:{mosimage}{mosimage}{mosimage}{mosimage}


What is your opinion of FCAT testing? Would you change the way it is administered or used in school grading and funding?

As governor, I will ensure that Florida’s children receive a year’s worth of knowledge in a year’s worth of time. If we do not measure students’ academic performance and achievement, we cannot provide the proper care for their progress toward becoming productive adults. We should be using the FCAT as a diagnostic tool . . . by returning the tests more quickly, giving access to tests and answers, and assisting in specific problem areas. A simple letter grade based on a single high-stakes test tells very little about the quality of education that a child is receiving.   I’m proud of my service as education commissioner, and my work to implement the A+ Plan alongside Gov. Bush. A+, the FCAT and the Sunshine State Standards brought accountability to our schools, and I’ll continue the programs as governor.The FCAT forces our schools to prepare children for a test instead of preparing them for life. Testing should be used as a diagnostic tool to see in which areas students need to improve, not to financially punish our students and schools. 


In light of recent devastating hurricanes and their impact on insurance rates statewide, does the state need to rethink development in coastal areas?

Recent modifications to the building codes strengthen Florida’s ability to endure difficult hurricane seasons. If elected, I will promote incentives for Floridians to strengthen or “harden” their homes against hurricanes and promote the “culture of preparedness” that Gov. Bush has advocated. Insurers are going out of business, leaving many Floridians in jeopardy. Those remaining raise premiums and impose assessments on policyholders who don’t even live on the water. We need a governor who will overhaul the insurance market and hold insurance companies accountable. We can’t prohibit Floridians from living on the coast, but I’m proposing statewide building codes and limits on state-backed residential property insurance to stabilize rates. These proposals will keep non-coastal residents from having to subsidize property insurance for coastal residents. As I declared in my recent speech to the Democratic State Convention, I will put strong enforcement teeth and adequate funding behind the state’s growth management policy. 


What is your opinion on oil exploration and/or drilling off Florida’s coasts?

I oppose drilling off Florida’s coasts and – as I have done as attorney general – will do everything in my power to protect our pristine beaches from any adverse impacts caused by drilling. As a corollary to my opposition, I will aggressively pursue diversification of Florida’s energy supply. For almost 10 years, I’ve led the fight by Democrats and Republicans in Congress to protect Florida’s coastlines from offshore oil drilling. The unique beauty of our beaches is something we must protect – not just because it is important to our quality of life, but because it is critical to our economy.  I’ve always been opposed to the expansion of oil drilling, and I am the only candidate for governor who supported a plan that would protect our coasts through an established permanent moratorium on oil drilling off Florida’s coast. I strongly oppose off-shore drilling. Protecting our beaches is a sacred trust and critical to our economy; if we fail to preserve our natural wonders, our children will be denied the Florida that we inherited. 


If elected, what would you consider Florida’s No. 1 priority?

The first line of our Constitution is the obligation of government to ensure domestic tranquility, so our Founding Fathers recognized the importance of safety and security. As Governor, the first bill I will sign is the Anti-Murder Act, legislation that I have proposed to keep violent criminals off our streets. We must invest in our state and our people to build a world-class education system. By investing in high-quality schools, we’ll have the skilled work force we need for a strong economy and high-paying jobs that will give future generations a chance to realize the American Dream. My top priority is making sure we preserve Florida’s opportunities for future generations. That means a world-class education system, safe and secure communities, a health care system that works, and an economy that continues to lead the nation. The centerpiece of my administration will be improving Florida’s public schools, particularly raising teacher salaries, reducing class sizes, and ending FCAT’s grip on our public schools. 


What are your suggestions for making health care more available or affordable to Floridians?

 Health care decisions should be made by a patient, not insurance companies. The governor’s health care agency and I established myfloridarx.com to help consumers find the best prices for prescription drugs. I also believe small businesses should have flexibility in the marketplace.When I’m governor, Florida will join with other states to negotiate lower prescription drug prices. Second, we’ll allow seniors to purchase safe medicines from licensed pharmacies in Canada. Third, I’ve proposed letting small businesses form purchasing co-ops and negotiate better rates.   We’ll never be able to lower health care costs if we don’t lower the costs of lawsuits. I’m the only candidate consistently supporting meaningful lawsuit reform. We also need to expand the use of Healthy Kids and medical savings accounts.Re-importation and pooling purchasing power with other states can reduce the cost of prescription drugs, and we must seek new ways such as tax credits and purchasing pools to make it more affordable for businesses to provide health insurance for employees. 


What can the state do toassure affordable housing
for working people?

 Housing costs have increased, making work-force housing a significant issue. I applaud the recent measure passed by the Florida Legislature to provide opportunities for all Floridians to own a home. As governor, I will build on this foundation to promote affordable housing for working families.We need to stop the raid on the
affordable housing trust fund. The state has a very good plan, but the politicians in Tallahassee have refused to spend $500 million that is currently languishing in the trust fund. We need to put the “trust” back in the affordable housing trust fund. 
Work with local governments to identify specific solutions to their affordable housing challenges. Spend $200 million more from the Sadowski Trust Fund. Reduce property taxes for all property owners – I’m the only candidate proposing property tax relief through fiscal discipline. The Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund should never fall below $450 million and its spending cap should be lifted. We should also consider expanding eligibility so that more Floridians in critical professions such as teaching are eligible for assistance. 


Is Florida’s tax structure adequate to meet the state’s current and future needs? If not, what changes would you recommend?

 Florida’s economy is red-hot, with unemployment rates at an all-time low. This year, that economic vitality produced a $4-billion budget surplus. I believe our tax status helped spur Florida’s economic engine. As governor, I would look to further reduce taxes, not find ways to increase them.Over the last few years, the politicians in Tallahassee have doled out millions of dollars in tax breaks to well-connected special interests. As governor, I’ll thoroughly review each tax exemption that has been given out and repeal the ones that aren’t in the best interests of Florida’s taxpayers. I’m opposed to tax increases. The problem isn’t that government taxes too little, the problem is that government spends too much. We need more fiscal responsibility at all levels of government so that tax dollars are spent more wisely.  Florida has the second-most regressive tax structure in the nation – working families carry a larger share of the burden here than in other states. I will seek new sources of revenue without increasing that burden on working families or retirees. 


Would you support a South Dakota-style law banning most abortions in Florida?

I am pro-life and believe that abortion should only be legal in cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is in danger. As governor, I will foster a culture of life. To that end, I will establish the office of Adoption and Child Protection to promote adoption. No, I do not support a South Dakota-style law banning abortions, and as governor, I would veto any similar legislation passed by the Florida Legislature. I support a woman’s right to choose and believe a woman’s personal, private decision should be between her and her doctor. Yes. I’ll seek solutions to limit abortions in Florida. I’m the only candidate with a pro-life voting record. I’ve also proposed a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions, a proposal my opponent and pro-abortion groups have condemned. I oppose legislation as restrictive as the South Dakota ban. Rather than seeking ways to punish women and doctors, our focus should be on reducing the need for abortion by preventing unintended pregnancies. 


What does Florida need to do to deal with illegal immigration on the state level?

Florida must work with the federal government to secure our borders. However, we must never forget that our nation and state have benefited greatly from contributions of people from other countries. I will work with Sen. Mel Martinez and other national leaders toward a thoughtful approach. First, we need to better protect our borders and ports of entry. The gross underfunding of homeland and border security is a serious problem. Second, undocumented immigrants who are already here, paying their taxes and raising their families need a strict but fair path to legal status.  Florida has benefited greatly from legal immigration, but if the federal government doesn’t take action to stop illegal immigration, I will. I’ll improve Florida’s enforcement of current immigration laws and oppose amnesty for illegal aliens.  We must work with border states to create a mechanism to integrate immigrants already here and a fair system of legal immigration that takes into account Florida’s unique location. Increasing economic and political opportunity in neighboring countries will reduce the flow of illegal immigrants. 


Should state law be changed to allow homosexuals to adopt children?

While I am a strong supporter of adoption, I do not support a change to state law. I believe the best option for children is to be placed in a home with a loving mother and father. I have released a proposal to encourage adoptions by giving financial incentives to adoptive parents. Yes. Gays and lesbians have been serving as dedicated and loving foster parents in Florida for years. Our state should make it easier to find loving parents for the children who need them – not make it harder.  No. As governor, I won’t support attempts to change the current law. There’s plenty of traditional families who want to adopt but can’t because of government red tape. We should focus on assisting traditional families who seek opportunities to adopt.When a child is in foster care, judges should have the ability to make a decision that is solely in the best interest of that child in order keep him or her out of the foster care system. 


Categories: Archive