ISLAMORADA -- Gov. Rick Scott breezed through town last Thursday, 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 municipal 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 Key, 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 as 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, 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 advocacy group Fair Insurance for Monroe.
Toward the end of his speech, Scott briefly turned his attention to wastewater, referencing state Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, who has said that obtaining the second $50 million installment of the Mayfield grant is among her top priorities during her first year in Tallahassee.
Scott signed off on the first Mayfield grant installment last year but didn't include a 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, with reporters outside the Village Council meeting hall just a couple hours earlier.
There, he said that he supports expenditures that give the state a good return and which have the support of local elected officials. But he deflected a specific question about whether he'd sign off on a 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 Key governments and agencies.
As of last Friday, Monroe County, Islamorada, Key West, Marathon, Key Colony Beach, the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District and the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority had signed the agreement, making it ready for submission, County Administrator Roman Gastesi said.
Scott also deflected a question outside the council chambers about whether he supports Florida Senate Bill 7018, which, in an effort to encourage more private insurers to do business in Florida, would require Citizens Property 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 last 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, 2012, 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.