Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday breezed through Islamorada, where he attended the Village Council meeting before giving the keynote address at the Republican Party of Monroe County's Annual Reagan Dinner.
Along the way Scott was supportive, but noncommittal, about the $50 million wastewater grant that county and city officials in the Florida Keys have made their main legislative priority this year.
Speaking to the partisan Reagan Dinner crowd of approximately 200 at the Islander Resort on Upper Matecumbe, Scott struck a campaign-like tone. He touted the decline in Florida's unemployment rate from 12 percent when he took office to 8 percent now, as well as moves he has made to cut regulations and taxes.
"What we all believe in works, and my personal opinion is that everybody in this state should be a Republican," the governor said to applause.
He also said he is "very disappointed" with Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the quasi-governmental windstorm insurer of last resort in Florida whose executives have been hammered in the headlines lately for lavish travel expenditures and generous raises even as they have raised premiums and taken steps to divest the insurer of customers.
Citizens holds 91 percent of all Keys windstorm policies, according to the advocacy group Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe.
Toward the end of his speech, Scott briefly turned his attention to wastewater, referencing Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, who has said that obtaining the second $50 million installment of the Mayfield grant is among her main legislative priorities in her first year in Tallahassee.
Scott signed off on the first Mayfield grant installment last year, but didn't include the second $50 million in his budget proposal released in late January.
"I know that wastewater treatment is a big deal," the governor said at the dinner. "I'm very supportive of what Holly's working on. It is the right thing to do."
Scott struck a more cautious tone, however, in an interview outside the Village Council meeting hall just a couple hours earlier.
There, he said he supports expenditures that give the state a good return and have the support of local elected officials. But he deflected a specific question about whether he'd sign off on the second $50 million grant if the Legislature puts it in the budget this year.
"I haven't seen a proposal yet," Scott said.
Monroe County officials have been heading an effort to present a proposal to the governor's office on how the grant money would be divided among Keys governments and agencies. As of Friday, Monroe County, Islamorada, Key West, Marathon, Key Colony Beach and the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District had signed the agreement. The county was still awaiting the approval of the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority before submitting the proposal, County Administrator Roman Gastesi said.
Scott also deflected a question outside the council chambers about whether he supported Florida Senate Bill 7018, which, in an effort to encourage more private insurers to do business in Florida, would require Citizens Insurance to set rates based on actuarially sound levels. Under the bill, rates for homes valued at more than $300,000, as well as second homes and new policies, must be higher than those offered by the 20 biggest private insurers doing business in a given area. Critics say it would make windstorm insurance more expensive.
"We've got to look at bringing more insurance companies in the state," Scott said, without commenting specifically on the bill.
Scott appeared toward the beginning of the Islamorada Village Council meeting Thursday, where council members gave him a standing ovation as he walked into the meeting hall.
Mayor Ken Philipson read a proclamation naming March 14, 2013, "Rick Scott Day" in the village.
The governor responded by thanking the village.
"I've never had a day before, I don't think, in the state anywhere," he said.