Education is the cornerstone of our nation's economic might. In making a commitment to improving our children's education, we are ensuring they will have the skills to land good jobs – jobs that will come to Florida because we have an educated and skilled workforce. Yet, today, Florida's high school graduation rate is only 65 percent – well below the national average. Additionally, the State of Florida pays teachers about $6,000 less than the national average and ranks 36th in terms of per child spending. These numbers are unacceptable. Our education policy should not be based on fear of failure or teaching to tests – it should be built on a foundation of inspiration and innovation. That's why I will fight any attempt to push through a new version of the ill-conceived and terribly flawed Senate Bill 6 passed by the Legislature last session.
Florida's economy is in peril. The state's unemployment rate is at its highest in 40 years – 12.2 percent. Additionally, Florida faced a $4.7 billion shortfall when adopting budgets for fiscal year 2011. Instead of giving tax cuts to large corporations, we must focus on making sure small business owners are stable enough to grow their businesses. We must also work to create revenue growth by making the Sunshine State the new hub of innovation and high-tech advancement. Through relationships with the University of Florida, local government, and business leaders we can bring new industries to North Central Florida that focus on Green energy and newly emerging technologies.
Florida's environmental assets are fragile, essential to our economic well being, and must be protected. Tourism and Agriculture remain our state's two largest industries. When we fail to protect our environment it not only robs our children of clean air and water but also threatens Florida's economy. Coastal tourism alone generates $56 billion a year to our state – and we can't afford to lose a penny of that revenue. The recent disaster in the Gulf is a perfect example of the need for increased protection for our natural resources. Politicians, like my opponent, are scrambling to rewrite their history of putting our environment at risk, but shouldn't take a disaster to force good judgment— instead we need leaders who will push policies that protect Florida's way of life.
The politicians in Tallahassee are out of touch and Floridians are fed up with wasteful spending and backroom deals that help special interests. Between gavel-and-go special sessions and continuously cutting funding to our most basic public safety needs, the Florida Legislature has broken faith with the people it represents. The special interests have more say in Tallahassee than the voters do and that's just not right. That's why I'm running for the Florida Senate. This seat belongs to the people of Florida and, as your state senator, I will always put your interests ahead of special interests every day.