WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Rick Scott rode to the governor's office on a promise to reign in government. But now, with the backdrop of droopy poll numbers and a reelection fight less than two years away, the governor has proposed the largest budget in state history.
Just two years ago, Scott cut school spending by over a $1 billion.
Twenty-year kindergarten teacher Patti Hatch was hurt by the governor's 2011 budget that shifted three percent of teacher salaries to the state pension fund.
"Even if it's a hundred dollars a paycheck, it makes a difference, " said Hatch.
Last year, Scott replaced most of it. And this year, he's proposing to add $1.2 billion, mostly in the form of $2,500 raises for teachers.
"It's election time," said Hatch.
Scott is staring at approval ratings in the high-thirties, a re-energized Democratic party and a former governor, Charlie Crist, who is eyeing a run.
Yet Scott still has a base - the Tea Party - even after seeing headlines that this is Florida's biggest budget ever.
"It would probably take a lot for us to reconsider, " said Michael Riordan, PBC Tea Party president.
But as the election draws closer, Democrats may try to use the big budget to call Scott a flip-flopper and try to drain his conservative juice.
"I welcome Governor Rick Scott over to our side of the road, which is middle of the road," said State Sen. Maria Sachs (D- Delray Beach).
Hatch says she'll take the $2,500, though it won't buy her vote.
"If it's a way to get the teacher vote, I don't think it will," said Hatch.
Republican legislator Bill Hager told NewsChannel5 that he expects the Republican-led state legislature to support increases in spending because he says at this point, revenues have come back enough to support it.
He credits Rick Scott's policies for that.
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