Excerpts from the Oct. 8 debate
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 18, 1998
he following are excerpts from the Oct. 8 gubernatorial debate in Orlando between Republican Jeb Bush and Democrat Buddy MacKay:
Bush, answering a question about his proposal to offer vouchers to pay for private tuition for students at failing public schools: "My opponent will try to tell you this will destroy public education. It won't. It will make schools better . . . There have to be choices for parents who don't have choices today . . . what about the people who don't have much income? They should have choices like everybody else."
MacKay's response: "The problem with the voucher plan is the student has the voucher, but there is no guarantee the school will accept this student . . . the public schools in the inner cities end up being stigmatized, and you end up doing great harm to your public schools . . . as governor I would veto a voucher plan."
MacKay, answering a question about reforming the civil court system, which the Republican-controlled Legislature approved last year and Gov. Lawton Chiles vetoed: "As a legislator I did most of the tort reform that has been done in the state of Florida . . . last year's tort reform bill went too far . . . there was no effort made to compromise that, and so it was vetoed . . . it was not an issue of tort reform; it was an issue of denying citizens access to the courts . . . I'm gonna stand up to the big businesses who are trying to shift the burden of the judicial system to our ordinary citizens."
Bush: "Litigation reform will help small businesses, not big businesses . . . any small businessman will tell you it is easy to get sued in this state . . . I will sign meaningful tort reform. We will not limit the ability of people to access the courts."
MacKay, answering a question about health maintenance organizations and a patient's bill of rights: "We need to put doctors and patients back in charge of health care decisions, not HMOs and accountants . . . I propose we hold the HMO accountable just as we would hold a doctor or hospital accountable today in our court system. That's how you get people to change. That's how you get their attention."
Bush: "If we sue, all we are going to have is two more years of legal costs. The lawyers will do quite well."
MacKay, in his closing statement: "You have seen a clear choice here. It is a choice between a person who has a proven record of leadership in this state and a person who is very articulate but untried, a person whose business record raises more questions than it answers."
Bush, in his closing statement: "Leadership is not about how many years you spend in government. Leadership is about having a vision . . . It is time for new ideas, and it is time to put energy behind them . . . All we need is the courage to innovate and to get beyond the old-style politics of the past. We can do better."