ORLANDO, Fla Florida Gov. Rick Scott, heading into what could be a tough re-election fight, used a Friday appearance before a conservative group to bash a potential rival while also calling for large tax cuts in the coming year.
Scott, speaking at an Orlando summit being held by Americans for Prosperity, said he will ask legislators to cut $500 million in taxes and fees next year.
The Republican governor maintained has a budget surplus in 2014, it should use some of the extra revenue to cut taxes.
"It's your money, not the government's," Scott said. "Working with the Florida Legislature, we have cut taxes year after year, even while forcing government to live within its means. This year, we are committed to returning even more money to hard-working Floridians."
But Scott also used his speech to directly criticize former Gov. Charlie Crist even though he never mentioned his name. Crist, who became a Democrat last year, is expected to challenge Scott in the governor's race.
The governor, echoing the same type of criticism leveled at Crist by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, lashed into Crist for backing the federal stimulus signed into law by President Barack Obama. Scott even referenced the now-infamous hug that Crist gave Obama during a Florida stop to promote the stimulus.
"My predecessor made a name for himself by hugging President Obama's stimulus spending -- and even hugged the President," Scott said. "When he was asked the stimulus money, he said he needed the money. As a result, spending and debt increased at an alarming rate. ... Florida was in a hole -- and for about four years -- the state just kept digging."
Scott did not note during his remarks that he signed into law budgets that also relied on money tied to the federal stimulus.
Crist, in an emailed response, continued to stand by his decision to support the stimulus, saying it was money that was used to help teachers, firefighters and police officers.
"I thought it was right and smart to invest in our fellow Floridians," Crist stated. "...It just made sense to want to help us get through the very tough economy."