In the four years before I took office, Florida lost more than 825,000 jobs, unemployment more than tripled from 3.5 percent to 11.1percent and state debt increased by $5.2 billion.
Today, our businesses have created more than 280,000 new private sector jobs, Florida's unemployment rate has dropped below the national average to 7.8 percent, we have paid down state debt by $2 billion and we are not stopping there. We cut taxes, eliminated thousands of regulations on job creators, and invested in education. It's working.
Because we made the hard choices over the last two years, we are able to make the smart choices to keep our economy growing this year. We have a projected budget surplus for the first time in six years. Our challenges are different in this budget, but our goal is absolutely the same: economic growth and job creation.
This year, we have two priorities to keep our economy growing: first -- remove the sales tax on manufacturing equipment to create more manufacturing jobs, and second -- invest in our teachers by providing them a well-deserved pay raise. Our Florida Families First Budget supports these priorities while maintaining substantial reserves. This is responsible stewardship of taxpayer money.
Why are we so focused on creating jobs and improving education? Why do we focus on putting Florida Families First in our budget? Because every Florida family wants not just to dream, but to have the opportunity to make those dreams come true. We must invest in our education system, support our teachers and cut taxes to help create more jobs. Our work to cut spending and live within our means over the last two years has allowed us to once again invest in education. Student learning is important to the economy because the workers of tomorrow are in Florida classrooms today.
As long as even one Florida family needs a job, our work is not done. That is why we are committed to removing the sales tax on manufacturing equipment. Florida is one of only a few states with this tax, and we lag behind the nation in per capita manufacturing jobs. Manufacturing has a major impact on our economy because every manufacturing job supports two to three other jobs in our state.
I believe Florida will be the number one place in the world for job creation, the number one place in the world to get a great education and the number one place in the world where families can afford to live. Everything we have done together over the last two years has been geared toward economic growth. It's working.
Gov. Rick Scott