Gov. Bush touts urgency of keeping GOP in power

Published August 11, 2006

PENSACOLA - Florida has had economic growth and education gains and is safer than it's ever been, Gov. Jeb Bush said Thursday, but if voters choose a Democrat to replace him the state will only go backward.

That summed up the governor's message as he began an election campaign focusing on his agenda and successes.

"They're kicking me out the door in about 144 days," said Bush, who has to leave office because of term limits. "... There's going to be a new governor and I want it to be a Republican governor that builds on the platform of success that we've built."

Bush made his remarks at Avalex Technologies, a company that relocated to Florida from Atlanta. It makes mapping and video devices for helicopters. The $19-billion in tax cuts he has pushed through since taking office in 1999 have helped attract such companies, Bush said.

"That money has been kept in the pockets of small businesses ... where they can invest in their own dreams and create higher-wage jobs," Bush said. "That philosophy is a good philosophy. It works. It drives the liberals crazy."

On education, he said the FCAT has created an accountability that allows children to learn more.

The Republicans hoping to replace Bush, Attorney General Charlie Crist and Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, have said they will follow his direction on the FCAT, taxes and other issues.

The Democrats, state Sen. Rod Smith and U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, say the FCAT shouldn't be used to reward and punish schools, nor be the dominant factor in determining graduation or grade advancement.

Smith and Davis have also claimed Bush pushes tax cuts that help few people while ignoring education and health care needs, and have criticized his plan to make Medicaid more like private managed care.

"Jeb Bush tends to conveniently ignore the fact that he's left plenty of room for improvement on education, he's done little to deal with the insurance rate crisis, he's created low-wage jobs at the expense of high-paying ones, and his botched privatization effort sent millions of pages of state employees' personal records to India unsecured," said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Mark Bubriski.

Bush said he's eager to talk about any of the Democrats' claims.

"Bring them on," said Bush, who plans to continue campaigning for a Republican governor.