March 4, 2003
The first-term architects of the Democrats’ economic development plan, Innovation Florida, Senator Dave Aronberg (D-Greenacres) and Representative Bruce Antone (D-Orlando) were tapped to deliver the Democratic response to the Governor’s State of the State address.
“Just because we weren’t part of the problem doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be part of the solution,” said Senator Dave Aronberg. “In these troubled times, we need to usher in a new era of accountability, community, and opportunity.”
The freshman lawmakers said their constituents were worried about Florida ’s economic conditions, education, the collapse of the state’s insurance markets, and threats of terrorism heightened by the approaching war.
They called for a “new way of doing business in Florida .”
“The economic successes that our Governor brags about are not a reality in my district, nor are they a reality in most communities in Florida ,” said Rep. Antone during his speech. “They know times are tough and all they are looking for is an opportunity. All their lives, they have been told that if they work hard and play by the rules, that they can have a better life. All my constituents want is that chance.”
Senator Aronberg represents a multi-county district, reaching from Ft. Myers across the state to West Palm Beach . In his recent election, Aronberg defeated GOP Senate candidate Frank Mann to win a seat in the state Senate. Prior to becoming the youngest State Senator, Aronberg worked as assistant Attorney General and was responsible for the state’s lawsuit of psychic scam-artist, Miss Cleo.
Representative Antone represents a House district in Orange County , including portions of Orlando and Eatonville. Antone comes to Tallahassee after surviving a tough four-way Democratic primary and a Republican general election challenge. Prior to his election, Antone served as the Chief of Staff to former State Senator and current Orlando Mayor, Buddy Dyer. He has been a leader in the fight to ensure more diverse representation on the Orange County School Board by requiring members to run in single-member districts.
“Sen. Aronberg and Rep. Antone represent the future of our party,” said Senate Democratic Leader Ron Klein and House Democratic Leader Doug Wiles. “They come to Tallahassee untarnished by the entrenched biases and partisan mindset that is all too prevalent in our state capitol. It’s important to give tomorrow’s leaders the chance to lead today.”
I am Senator Dave Aronberg.
And I am Representative Bruce Antone.
And we are here today to respond to Governor Bush's recent State of the State address.
Representative Antone and I are new to Tallahassee . In fact, our bags are still waiting to be unpacked.
We come to the capital fresh off our campaign victories, and we come to Tallahassee without the entrenched biases and partisan mindset that is all too prevalent in our state capitol.
Obviously, we weren't among those who cut education or programs to help our states neediest, to balance the budget during the last special sessions.
But, just because we weren't part of the problem doesn't mean we shouldn't be part of the solution.
We come to the Legislature as citizens. We come here with a different perspective, new ideas, along with a touch of idealism. We come here with the reality that we are in tough times; times made harder by the edge of war that looms before us.
The fact is that the people who sent us here are worried.
They're worried about their own jobs; they're worried about their kids' education and their parent's health care. And they're worried about the threat of terrorism and the prospects of war.
It's the harsh reality of today.
But the fact is that while we deal with the problems of today, we must never lose sight of our dream of a better Florida: a Florida with schools that are the envy of our nation; a Florida where no senior ever has to make the choice between buying life-saving drugs or buying food; a Florida where families don't worry about going without health insurance; and a Florida economy that supports today's college students with the jobs of tomorrow.
We have a choice: we can bemoan our current situation; we can blame voters for causing budget problems by passing the Pre-Kindergarten and Class Size amendments; we can resort to partisan finger pointing.
Or, we can make things better by focusing on our priorities and doing right by the people who sent us here.
Today we will hear the Governor boast about improvements in our economy and our educational system.
But the reality is that our economy is not in good shape and our schools, while they do a good job, are having their potential cut short by a budget that shortchanges our students and teachers.
I represent Eatonville, a small town just north of Orlando, a town that economic prosperity has left behind.
The economic successes our Governor will brag about are not a reality in my district, nor are they a reality in most communities around Florida .
My constituents don't care if we are better than California . My constituents are about the here and now. They know that times are tough; and all they are looking for is an opportunity. All their lives, they have been told that if they work hard, and play by the rules, that they can have a better life. My constituents want an opportunity and a better life.
A better life is not a $10 an hour job when your parents earned $8.
A better life is a better paying job, with job security and better benefits, and it all starts with a better education.
My first legislative action was to propose Innovation Scholarships, a program that will provide college scholarships on a need-based basis, to students studying high-tech fields, such as Aerospace Technology, Life Sciences, Information Technology and Manufacturing.
Because if we can train today's students for the high-tech jobs of tomorrow, then we can recruit high-wage businesses to Florida .
The truth is - we want more opportunities for our children to succeed. We promised them if they work hard in high school they would have a chance to go to college. We must live up to that promise.
But now the Governor wants to cut their scholarship opportunities. This Governor wants to cut Bright Futures, and raise their tuitions anywhere by as much as 12.5%. We all know this will only make it harder for the people I represent to earn a better living.
College is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity.
And, unless we make college more affordable and available to everyone
Until we do whatever it takes to encourage today's students to train for tomorrow's jobs
Until we reaffirm that we are keeping our promise-
Then we are destined to have an economy that ebbs and flows---remaining forever dependent on tourists traveling to Florida and spending their money here.
It's time for a new way of doing business in Florida .
We do represent a different way of doing things.
I was born and raised in this state, and attended its public schools. My parents taught me that if you think big, and dream even bigger, anything is possible.
As the youngest member of this Senate I am living proof of my parents' wisdom and dreams.
And in these troubled times, I believe we need to usher in a new era of accountability, community, and opportunity.
It starts with a government more accountable to its citizens.
As a former White House fellow, I've worked in both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations and seen first hand the legacy of borrow and spend - trickle down - economics. It didn't work before. And it's not working now.
Tax cuts should go to those who earned them, the working men and women who play by the rules. Not to those who live by the loophole and funnel tax windfalls to off-shore bank accounts.
And as a former assistant attorney general, I've seen the shell games folks play with finances, and prosecuted those who abused the public trust.
As the people's representatives, it's not right for anyone to claim they're cutting government, when in reality; the burden is shifting to cities and counties.
It's not right for legislators to claim they are cutting taxes, when the reality is that these state cuts require cities and counties to raise taxes on working and middle class families.
And it's not right to balance a state budget on the backs of college students, troubled teens, even our 150-year old state library.
Government's role is not to stifle the spirit and creativity of it citizens, but to empower its communities.
We need to help small businesses grow and create new and better paying jobs. Our Innovation Florida plan will ensure that students are prepared for high-tech jobs and our Leave No Community Behind program will provide tax credits for small businesses to come to Florida and locate in inner city and rural communities.
Fostering a new sense of community means we need to encourage small businesses to provide health insurance for their employees. Our health care plan allows small businesses to buy the same discounted health insurance that Rep. Antone and I have as Legislators. And, we propose letting them deduct part of the cost to make it more affordable.
We need to provide seniors with real prescription drug relief. Our LifeSaver Rx plan will reduce the cost of prescription drugs by 35-60% for low-income seniors. We are proud to have Republicans join with us on this issue.
Finally, Democrats are also about opportunity, ensuring that every child has the chance through education to reach his or her potential. And as we expect more from our children, let us provide them more. That's why Democrats are proposing raising teacher salaries to at least the national average so we can recruit and retain the best teachers, and allow those teachers to work their magic in smaller classes with more discipline.
We can do better. Florida can be the economic cornerstone of the southeast. We have a talented and diverse workforce; we have natural beauty and abundant resources. We sit at the gateway to Latin America and have an entrepreneurial spirit second to none.
Our destiny is to lead, not follow.
Let us begin with ourselves: A commitment to government accountability, a commitment to our communities, and a commitment to opportunity that embraces all Floridians.
Join us as we reach higher, dream bigger, and push the envelope for ourselves, our state and our future.
God bless you. And God bless Florida .