Tallahassee, FL - Gov. Rick Scott on Valentines Day gave Department of Children and Families employees some love as he toured the agency, a week after proposing cuts to the many of the programs it oversees.
Speaking to employees – some of whose jobs may be targeted - under a handmade “Welcome Governor Scott” banner, the governor said he appreciates the “thankless job” performed by members of the agency that deals with broken homes, abused children, and other social ills exacerbated by tough economic times.
“Almost every family in this country deals with some of the issues you deal with everyday,” Scott said. “There is almost nobody that is unscathed, whether it’s drug abuse, substance abuse, child abuse.”
That said, his mission of cutting state government down to a proper size to get spending under control and create private sector jobs remains, Scott warned.
Returning repeatedly to his campaign stump speech, Scott said a growing economy would help alleviate some of the stresses that cause children and families to come into contact with state child welfare workers.
Still, cuts are inevitable at DCF. His proposed budget, released last week, calls for laying off 1,850 employees at the agency and slicing nearly $280 million from its budget.
“What you are doing is an important service, unfortunately, it’s a message that we don’t know enough about,” Scott said. “At the same time, all the systems in our state have had to tighten their belts and watch how they spend their money. That’s what we’re doing in this state.”
Scott’s proposed budget calls for privatizing three state-run mental hospitals, which employ about 1,200 workers, a major part of the job shedding in the agency’s spending plan. Overall, Scott has called for cutting nearly 9,000 state jobs as part of his $66 billion spending proposal.
Scott, who has been visiting state agencies sporadically since becoming governor, was welcomed to the DCF offices on Tuesday by newly appointed Secretary David Wilkins.
“What I’ve learned in the past three weeks is that this is an amazing, passionate group who love their job and love what we’re doing,” Wilkins said.