This is a rush transcript from “Your World” September 17, 2020. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
NEIL CAVUTO: Welcome, everybody. I’m Neil Cavuto. And this is “Your World.”
Look at this apartment complex in Gulf Shores, Alabama, ripped asunder, walls collapsing, the force of Mother Nature. For a Category 2 storm when it first entered, look at the damage that was done, to Pensacola, Florida, flooding and surges, we’re told, at some point in excess of six feet. Not exactly going down quickly, and, so far, the rescue attempts to bring things back to something resembling dry and normal, far and few between.
We’re on all these fast-moving developments, including later on this hour with the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, on the cleanup after the huge mess-up, and what is happening now, because there are other storms barreling nearby. We will get into that in just a second.
Right now, to Grady Trimble on the damage out of Pensacola — Grady.
GRADY TRIMBLE, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Neil, for people in this neighborhood, it was like deja vu to 16 years earlier, when Hurricane Ivan moved through this area and destroyed many homes in this neighborhood.
The storm surge once again causing major problems, along with the heavy rain. It destroyed many of the first levels of the homes in this neighborhood this time around. But they’re dealing with something else right here. This is a barge.
It was attached to a bridge that’s under construction in Pensacola Bay, somehow came detached from that bridge, and was pushed onto the land, showing you the force of that storm surge. It hit one of the houses that somebody was inside.
And, amazingly, that person, 98 years old, watched it, lived to tell the story and survived. I talked to several people who were inside their homes watching the floodwaters come in and watching this barge land in their yards.
Listen to how they described it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMY FLAHERTY, FLORIDA RESIDENT: It was just wild seeing it come in off the water. I imagine we will probably be looking at that for a couple months.
Maybe rollers? Maybe they will get tugs to pull it back? They will probably have to dig it out. I don’t know.
TRIMBLE: Nobody seems to know.
FLAHERTY: No, no, but it’s here for a while.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TRIMBLE: Meanwhile, hundreds of people have already been rescued all along the Gulf Coast from the rising floodwaters.
There are more than 300 people who still need to be rescued in the Pensacola area, according to officials here. And there is growing concern that, as this storm moves through the South, that it will continue to bring rain, and that rainwater will flow into Florida’s rivers, causing the rivers to rise once again, as people here are cleaning up from this mess, more flooding potentially — Neil.
CAVUTO: Just incredible.
All right, thank you, Grady, in Pensacola, Florida. We will keep you updated on that.
I want to move right now to Orange Beach, Alabama. That is where you will find our Casey Stegall, where things are, well, also a mess and then some –
CASEY STEGALL, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and then some is right, Neil.
Sally made landfall actually not terribly far from where we are, over in Gulf Shores, Alabama. This is Orange Beach. And just to give you a sense of how strong the winds were and the storm surge was, I’m going to step out of the way and let you take a live look now at this person’s yard.
Boy, do these pictures not speak for themselves? You’re looking obviously at a giant boat. Other boats just tossed out of the marina, like toys, pieces of the dock splintered all in this person’s yard.
Many roads and bridges across the state of Alabama are still flooded out.
The National Guard has been assisting with high-water rescues. Up to 50 of those have been carried out.
Over in neighboring Gulf Shores, as we talked about — and you showed this at the top of the show — look at this incredible drone video. A chunk of walls on a high-rise condominium complex just peeled away, only on five floors. You can literally still see the furniture inside, the dresser drawers open.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. KAY IVEY (R-AL): Our state is reeling just as our people are hurting.
First, but those who’ve been directly affected by this storm, your friends and neighbors around the state are thinking of you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEGALL: And friends and neighbors around the country thinking of you, for that matter.
More than 238,000 people in Alabama alone are without power as we speak. At least one person has died from Hurricane Sally. And it was here in Orange Beach. We’re told that it was a water-related death. There may possibly be one person missing — Neil.
CAVUTO: Thank you, Casey Stegall, very, very much.
So, the cleanup and rescue missions and all of that continue and could for some time.
With us right now is Brigadier General Bob Carruthers, the Florida National Guard dual status commander.
General, Commander, very good to have you, sir.
How are things looking?
BRIG. GEN. BOB CARRUTHERS, FLORIDA NATIONAL GUARD: Thank you for having me, Neil.
So, we have mobilized proximately 500 Florida National Guardsmen in the Western Panhandle to assist the state and local authorities in those affected counties with mostly search-and-rescue and the high-water evacuations for those affected areas.
We’re now — and we’re rapidly moving into a recovery stage, in which we’re helping with logistics support, transportation support, and about to start distributing basic commodities like food and water for those that need it.
So, as your previous reports showed, it — there is some significant effects and devastation in that localized area. And so, the state National Guard, along with all the local partners, are there now helping do what they need to do to get things back set for those folks in those areas.
CAVUTO: You know, General, with so many still experiencing no power, how do you reach them and find them, especially when it’s very difficult with all the flooding and devastation, downed trees, and downed, well, lots of stuff, to reach them?
So, that’s why we bring in — we bring in — our equipment helps a lot.
That’s one of the biggest portions of our support to the local authorities, that we’re bringing in high-water vehicles. These are basically military vehicles. You have seen them in your reports, where they can go into pretty deep water along the roads and help the folks get out of those neighborhoods.
We also have rescue boats, and we are currently employing several of our helicopters, our military helicopters, to get to the real isolated areas.
CAVUTO: Now, General, people who were told to evacuate, especially with the storm surge, they’re often recommending, you’re going to have flooding.
And the flooding certainly these areas have experienced, the better part of valor is to get out of town. Now, many would heed that advice. Others did not, for fear of being stuck at a shelter. In this COVID-19 world, they were leery to leave. Did you encounter people who should have left who didn’t?
CARRUTHERS: No, for the most part, we didn’t have a large problem with that in the areas that were affected.
And so, we were very fortunate. As you know, in Florida, we have not had any deaths. And the storm came up upon us very quickly. And, as you mentioned, the COVID provides a complicating factor, in that we do have — we do provide what we call non-congregate shelters and others, which is a new thing for us now, in order to try and keep people separated.
But, for this storm, we did not have really an issue with folks not heeding the locals’ advice.
CAVUTO: All right, well, that, at least, is good to hear. I know you have a lot of work ahead of you. I want to thank you. I know the people in the areas are thanking you as well for you and your men and women.
General, be well, be safe yourself. Thank you again.
CARRUTHERS: Thank you, Neil. Appreciate it.
CAVUTO: All right.
In the meantime, we will be talking a little bit later this hour with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, what he makes of this. Emergency relief was at the ready and applied to virtually anyone affected, but it could take some time. This is going to be quite a cleanup.
And, by the way, there are some more storms, now, not necessarily destined to go to Florida, one that is zeroing right now in, as we speak, on Bermuda. So, we will be following that right now.
In the meantime, just want to let you know here, we’re following the president. He will be going to Wisconsin tonight for a big rally. The crowds are already there. They’re waiting for him in a state where the polls are indicating the race is tightening.
We will see — after this.
CAVUTO: All right, well, ahead of that big debate, of course, the attention is on the candidates crisscrossing the country right now for battleground states.
The president will be making his way to Wisconsin, in Mosinee, Wisconsin.
Also, we will be touching base right now with what the former vice president is up to, visiting his old haunt of Scranton, Pennsylvania, again, crucial battleground states, all.
Let’s go to Steve first in Mosinee, Wisconsin, waiting for the president of the United States.
STEVE HARRIGAN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Neil, Mosinee, Wisconsin, population 3,900. We might get that number tonight.
Some people began arriving yesterday. Others lined up at dawn to make sure they get in. This will be President Trump’s fourth trip to Wisconsin, showing just how important that battleground state is. He won it by surprise four years ago, less than 1 percent of the vote victory margin.
Democrats haunted by that loss, haunted too by Hillary Clinton’s failure to show up to campaign during the general election in the state of Wisconsin.
A key battle in this electorate, senior citizens, one out of five voters expected to be over the age of 65. Democrats are hoping for a big turnout in the cities Milwaukee and Madison.
It’s likely four hours from now the president will be talking about the economy. That’s been a strong issue for him so far, especially here in Wisconsin, manufacturing jobs. He may talk about law and order as well.
Of course, Wisconsin has had their troubles since the shooting of Jacob Blake back in office, several days of unrest and fires and following that shooting — Neil, back to you.
CAVUTO: Steve Harrigan, thank you very, very much my friend.
Now to Jacqui Heinrich traveling with the former vice president in Philadelphia right now — Jacqui.
JACQUI HEINRICH, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Big day for the Biden campaign today here, Neil.
Their multipronged effort is really trying to shore up support in different parts of communities around this state. But it’s happening amid a backdrop of some criticism against the former vice president from the current Vice President, Mike Pence.
He said last night that Joe Biden’s doubts about a potential coronavirus vaccine are irresponsible and said that he is putting into question the amazing innovation of our scientists working around the clock for a vaccine.
Now, yesterday, in his remarks on the vaccine, Biden didn’t express any doubt in scientists, but he said he doesn’t trust politically appointed agency heads or President Trump, citing concerns the administration could rush a vaccine for political gain.
Biden called for vaccine transparency, adding, if good science is behind it, he would take it himself. And he rejected the notion that his doubts are fostering uncertainty among Americans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: No, because they know he doesn’t have any respect for scientists.
Trust the scientists.
It’s one thing for Donald Trump to say the vaccine is safe. OK. Then give it to the board of scientists. Have total transparency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HEINRICH: Meantime, Biden and Harris buckling down hard in a state President Trump won by less than a single percent in 2016.
Biden’s heading to Scranton, where he will likely share a message for the working class. This morning, the campaign said Joe Biden sees this race as Park Avenue vs. Scranton, emphasizing Americans earning less than 400 grand a year won’t pay a penny more in taxes under a Biden administration.
Senator Kamala Harris is leading a Latino roundtable tonight at a Puerto Rican nonprofit. This election, for the first time ever, Hispanics and Latinos are the largest minority voting bloc, making up nearly 8 percent of Pennsylvania’s population.
And cell phone data purchased by the Biden campaign showed Hurricane Maria three years ago brought 80,000 Puerto Ricans to Pennsylvania. So that could be a really key variable in a state that President Trump only won by a little more than 44,000 votes in 2016 — Neil.
CAVUTO: Jacqui Heinrich, thank you very, very much.
Want to Karl Rove on all these fast-moving developments.
You know Karl, of course, a former deputy White House chief of staff, FOX News contributor, bestselling author.
Karl, if you will indulge me on this vaccine thing, because I think this has gotten to be a far bigger issue than was originally thought to be the case. By pushing for a vaccine sooner, rather than later, the president’s been essentially blamed by Joe Biden for — Joe Biden for compromising people’s health, and more or less telegraphing, if it comes out before the election, you should watch out.
Maybe that wasn’t his intention, but isn’t that a little risky? I mean, good news comes out, a vaccine is available, and Joe Biden might be planting seeds doubt about its efficacy or even safety.
KARL ROVE, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes.
No, and look, no vaccine is going to come to market until it has passed rigorous scientific tests and has received FDA approval.
I thought it was irresponsible and unnecessary on the part of the former vice president. And look, it is good news. And it is good news coming in an unusual way.
There’s a newsletter that comes out from Politico every night on coronavirus, and it’s written by some reporters who pay very keen attention to the science.
And one of them, Joanne Kenen, last night wrote a very interesting piece.
She said, when Anthony Fauci, Dr. Fauci, came out early in the year and said we might actually have a vaccine within 12 to 16 months, she said that she and her colleagues together, we rolled our eyes.
And yet she goes on to the piece later and says, amazing, amazing, it is plausible that we will get a vaccine within a few months from now.
Now, granted, it will be first available only to first responders and those that are at extreme risk. But the government has, in this Operation Warp Speed, done so far, a terrific job of setting up the possibility that, by the end of the year, we will have in production 100 million doses of this vaccine.
Now, remember, it’s not going to necessarily solve all of the problem, because even a good vaccine only gives you, say, 70 or 80 percent protection.
ROVE: But the vice president should not be discouraging people from believing that this is something that could give us what we want, which is a workable vaccine.
And I think, without playing politics about it, you can safely say that any president not trying to push for a vaccine sooner, rather than later, and beginning a program called Operation Warp Speed, whose main design is to do that, no safety has been compromised.
The nerd part of me on FOX Business, Karl, follows all of these companies that are racing to get one out. And the premier players, like Moderna, now just offered a blueprint for its virus vaccine trial that looks promising.
You have Pfizer working with BioNTech on very promising results there, and a lot of backup to provide millions of doses at the ready, if necessary, AstraZeneca, despite some bumps along the way, promising results there.
They’re the three big players. And, to a man or woman at that company running those companies, it’s all about getting it right, not rushing, but getting it right.
CAVUTO: But, with all of that, growing confidence that one could be had by the end of the year. That doesn’t make it suspect. That just — that just means the reality is, they’re moving at such a pace, and that — and the trials are so promising, that it’s happening, politics regardless.
I wish the vice — the former vice president had sought to build confidence, saying, if this is blessed by the FDA and by our scientists, I have every confidence in it, and left it at that, instead of trying to take a slap at the president.
Too often in recent weeks, I don’t know why Joe Biden has taken a slap. He gave a speech a couple of weeks ago in which he said the president deliberately mishandled the coronavirus in order to kill people.
I mean, it’s just over the top. And better that, for his own sake, if he were just simply saying, keeping it inside the sort of bounds of respectability, instead of making these kinds of over-the-top claims, which are going to undermine public confidence.
And there’s going to be somebody who says, well, Joe Biden said he wasn’t going to take it, and thereby avoid taking a vaccine that could help protect their life and their health.
CAVUTO: And speaking of the vaccine and who takes it and when, there is a procedure in place.
That’s why, when I was listening to the former vice president yesterday talk about how those with fat wallets — I’m paraphrasing here — would race to it first, we’re going to explore this issue later in the show, Karl, but suffice it to say, the procedure and the pattern — I have discussed with numerous doctors and medical experts — the health workers first, those in the line of fire, the elderly, those who are most vulnerable with respiratory, cardiac-related issues.
That is a given and a sort of a regimen that they have all agreed to. So, I don’t know what the mystery is here about some secret way to provide this for those with the money or the know-how.
ROVE: Yes. Yes.
CAVUTO: I don’t know. It just seems like you’re reinforcing a scary negative that people don’t need.
I thought it was very interesting. One of the first things that the general put in charge of production and distribution did was convene a panel of bioethics experts, people who look at the issue of health and medicine from an ethical perspective, to help devise a plan for distribution. What were the groups that were most at risk and ought to be done first?
And that’s exactly how it’s been done. And it’s been done by people who are apolitical and people who are looking at this from exactly the right perspective. How, as a humane society, should we prioritize the release of this — of this vaccine?
And remember one other thing, Neil. We ought to be — this is a moment to celebrate American innovation and American companies. It’s also to realize that some of this was set in motion after the SARS episode in the early 2000s, when one — I was in those White House briefings with, incidentally, Dr. Fauci.
And one of the things that we were told was that the — once a vaccine was settled, the means of creating the vaccine doses was to put them and incubate them in an egg. So, we had to worry about, how many eggs could we get our hands on in order to get a vaccine that could be given to hundreds of millions of Americans?
President Bush said, this is ridiculous, and invested billions of dollars in medical and scientific research to develop the process that’s being used today to genetically reproduce the dose, rather than to have to grow it and incubate it in an egg.
It speeds up the development, makes the vaccine more effective and makes it safer.
CAVUTO: It does.
I mean, if we’re talking about deferring to science and the scientists, the scientists are the one who have mapped out this plan about how you release a vaccine to the public and not do so before it has dotted all the I’s, crossed all the T’s, and its efficacy is undebatable.
But it is what it is, but really dangerous times for that kind of talk.
CAVUTO: So, Karl, thank you very, very much, Karl Rove following all these developments.
This is nothing with a political axe to grind, my friends. When it comes to this sort of stuff, we’re talking about life-and-death stuff and the procedure in place to deal with this. And I know a lot of these companies involved in this and how they’re doing it.
It is by the medical letter. It has to be, because, if they screw it up, if you want to just look at it selfishly, it’s going to cost them a bundle.
They don’t want that. What they want is something that works. And what they want is to make sure it gets out there safe and sound. It’s in their interests. It is in our interests.
Stay with us.
CAVUTO: Well, it’s called the Garden State, but don’t blame a lot of rich folks in that state if they feel that they were left stuck with a bunch of thorns.
The governor wants to hike their taxes by about 2 percentage points, making the highest top state rate in the nation. What’s going on?
CAVUTO: All right, the third time proving to be the charm for New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.
He’s always wanted a so-called millionaires tax to address some aggressive spending plans he has for the Garden State. This time, he got it. It’s a doozy. It will take the top rate in that state to 10.75 percent from 8.97 percent. Those earning a million or over are going to be paying that here.
A lot of Republicans say it starts with them. It’s going to spread to a lot of other folks.
Having said that, though, there was much more emphasis on the part of the New Jersey governor to hike taxes than there was to cut spending, some relatively paltry cuts by comparison, and nothing to deal with the state’s ballooning pension program that seems to be out of whack right now and public responsibilities that have indebted the state at the rate it’s going for decades to come.
Heather Zumarraga following all of this, Zuma Global president, and good read of the markets as well.
Heather, he is maybe the first and most prominent governor to propose something like this from a blue state. He will not be the last. They’re all looking at budgets that are underwater and deficits that are running away, and in about 44 of our states, they have to balance by the end of the year.
This is his way of doing that. What do you think?
HEATHER ZUMARRAGA, FINANCIAL ANALYST: That’s right.
Your taxes are going up, Neil. Look, there are big budget shortfalls, as you mentioned, because of COVID across the board. In New Jersey, for example, the top rate will go up to 10.75 percent. And anyone making $5 million and up was already paying that, but now over $1 million you would pay 10.75 percent on state taxes.
ZUMARRAGA: And what’s amazing is that, just across the river, even a Democratic governor like Andrew Cuomo knows that that may not be a great idea, as he was seeing a mass exodus from his state based on these increases in taxes and new proposed increases of millionaires tax, for example, to states like North Carolina and Florida.
You remember he said he talked to his wealthy friends in Upstate New York.
He said, I will cook. Come back. We will go out to eat. I will buy you drinks.
CAVUTO: I remember that.
ZUMARRAGA: And no one is coming. No one is coming.
CAVUTO: But you know what’s interesting about it, we know how what — this kind of thing, when it happens, whether it’s high taxes, or just the burden of living in a state where they have all these financial problems, money moves, as you have reminded me.
And later on, I’m going to be talking to the Florida governor, who is dealing with a host of issues, but actually benefiting from people who are trying to escape high state taxes, now increasingly looking like New Jersey. So that pattern will continue, I suspect.
ZUMARRAGA: Well, unfortunately, it looks like it will.
But I think there are some other solutions for New Jersey. For example, instead of borrowing or increasing taxes, they can look at their — the money that is put into pensions. Right now, it’s $4.9 billion.
ZUMARRAGA: You can take a few billion of that for now. You repay that later on.
And I think one of the biggest immediate solutions would be to change the tax code. I’m assuming people like yourself, who are New Jersey residents, if you work in New York, you’re paying New York state and city taxes, right?
But during the pandemic, a lot of people are working from home. I think that trend will continue even post-pandemic. And so, if you are working from your home office in New Jersey, that tax money is rightfully — should go to New Jersey, some would argue.
They’re entitled to that. And that would be about $1 billion that they could increase their revenue.
CAVUTO: But I just wonder about all of these states that are facing this problem. And now they — it’s easy to raise taxes. I get it. If you’re in a pinch, all right, that’s an option to consider, when I don’t see the same zeal applied to maybe addressing the money that’s going out, the spending that’s going on, or addressing these unfunded pension obligations that are over the top in New Jersey.
I’m not saying here and now, for firemen and policemen and teachers retiring right this moment…
CAVUTO: … but grandfathered in.
The reluctance to do that is like a ticking time bomb that no tax increase, even at 100 percent, could address.
ZUMARRAGA: No, absolutely. And that’s what the stalemate is in Washington right now.
And regardless of what kind of compromise the two sides come up with in terms of another round of fiscal stimulus, it most likely seems plausible some round to state and local governments will be included, whether that’s
$500 billion or $1 trillion.
They’re going to bail out California, New York, New Jersey. And a lot of Democrats — a lot of Republicans would argue that they shouldn’t be bailed out because they couldn’t manage, as you rightfully pointed out, their budgets. They couldn’t manage their spending before COVID.
CAVUTO: All right, Heather, thank you very, very much.
And to Heather’s point, does anyone remember the Alternative Minimum Tax?
It was meant to ensnare very rich folks who were avoiding paying taxes. But it has now grown to about one-third of everyone today who does pay taxes.
So it can sprinkle down, if you will, to a lot more people.
Also getting the latest on TikTok, the idea to get around the Chinese snooping around. That’s the push with an American entity like Oracle interested in taking a stake in the company, but all sorts of obstacles right now — after this.
CAVUTO: All right, the ticktock on TikTok is still rather confusing.
The company itself is a Chinese concern, as you know. The parent company is a Chinese concern, a U.S. interest, namely Oracle, interested in buying a big chunk of that, not all of that, but there’s a rub here.
That is whether it can assure that no user of TikTok will be spied on by the Chinese. It’s not such a given. Or, for that matter, that the president United States, very influential on a yea or nay on this, will go along with it.
Charlie Gasparino has been following this corporate soap opera.
Where do we stand right now, buddy?
CHARLIE GASPARINO, FOX NEWS SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, TikTok is trying to sweeten the deal, so to speak, to try to convince the White House to approve this, whatever it is.
It’s not really a purchase, we should point out. Oracle, the American company leading the, I guess you could say, investor group or joint venture group with TikTok, is not really buying the company.
It made — what it is essentially doing is establishing a U.S. company that will licensed TikTok’s technology from its Chinese parent, which is known as ByteDance. That’s not quite a purchase.
So, ByteDance still controls the app and the algorithms. That’s what has some national security advisers inside the Trump administration. Attorney General William Barr, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, concerned at first, even as Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, is poised to approve this deal.
He believes that what TikTok has agreed to essentially gets the deal done.
There’s going to be a lot more surveillance over the app. There’s going to be some things that TikTok has agreed to, including what sources tell the FOX Business Network TikTok has agreed to do, an IPO, sell shares to U.S.
Theoretically, that would weaken the Chinese control of it even further.
There will be more investors in it. And TikTok has agreed, if approved by the White House, to list on a U.S. stock exchange. We know that as well.
Again, all this comes down to President Trump, does he — does he really want to do this deal? There’s some political ramifications here. His political advisers are saying, hey, you ban a popular app, that could cost you at — in November.
Others are saying, listen, you said, at first, there can be no Chinese involvement in this. The Chinese government is forcing you to involve them.
They will not sell this outright. That’s why Microsoft dropped out.
So then you got to go through some finagled deal like this, where the Chinese are still in it. That is not what you said initially when you passed yourexecutive order, saying, if there wasn’t a deal, a sale, the breakup of China — from the Chinese parents by September 20, you’re banning it.
So that’s what the president is weighing right now. I — it depends on who you talk to. Half of my sources saying he’s going to probably go for it.
The other half are saying that there are still grave concerns.
We should point out that Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas, joined a list of GOP senators today saying there needs to be a full sale, a complete breakup, basically denouncing what is on the table right now.
So, there is political pressure on the president to say no. So — but I guess we will know. Our long national nightmare involving TikTok should be over, I guess, in the next 24 to 48 hours, because that deadline is coming up. It’s Sunday — Neil, back to you.
CAVUTO: Yes. And I know you want to get back to those dancing videos. So, we don’t want to hold that up.
CAVUTO: All right, Charlie Gasparino.
I know, TikTok, there’s more on that. But every single time I see it, it’s like people dancing, which is fine. But that’s whatever you’re into.
By the way, we’re finding out a little bit more about what the president will get into when he makes a campaign stop later tonight in Wisconsin.
This is the scene right now, was the scene right now a little bit earlier.
But we’re told right now the president’s going to announce farm aid to that state of around $13 billion. This is a report we’re getting from Reuters.
But, again, I believe this is his fourth stop in Wisconsin, a state crucial to him. It made a big difference four years ago. He hopes it makes a big difference tonight.
We will have more after this.
CAVUTO: All right, we told you a little bit earlier that the president is going to make its way to Wisconsin tonight. The vice president, the former vice president, Joe Biden has been busy in Pennsylvania. They have both been visiting these states a number of times and crisscrossing here.
But, right now, I want to get the attention back on Florida, not the least of which is because it has survived Hurricane Sally, a Category 2 storm when it first hit, a lot of flooding, particularly in the Pensacola area, Florida, an important state, obviously, in this election and its electoral votes that are up for grabs in a very, very tight contest.
That state’s governor with us right now, Ron DeSantis.
Governor, thank you very much for taking the time.
How are things looking right now, particularly in Pensacola?
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Well, Neil, fortunately, we have no reported fatalities at this point.
And this was a storm that we had been prepared for. Even though we were looking at maybe a Mississippi impact, it wobbled. The local folks were ready. The state was ready. We combined — between the two of us, we have executed over 600 search-and-rescue missions to be able to rescue people when their — when their homes were flooded.
And we have also dispatched a lot of water and food. So, things — it was a tough storm. There’s definitely a lot of flood damage. But the fact that we got through it so far without any reported fatalities, I think people thought, when you have almost three feet of water dumped, that is very hazardous.
And so hats off to all the first responders. Now really what we’re looking to do is get the power back on. You have probably got about 200,000 people in Northwest Florida with no power. Most of it’s in the Escambia, Santa Rosa County, which is the furthest west that the state goes.
So, we have trucks coming in; 7,000 line men are engaged. And they are actually working 24/7. So, when it gets dark — and the state’s helping with this — we will actually have trucks going out there and shining lights, so that they can continue to work to get the power back on.
CAVUTO: You know, Governor, it’s been such a busy storm season. And I’m sure that many people had storm/hurricane fatigue.
And so, with your latest warnings on Sally, and quite appropriately warning about the floods and the surges to come, did they heed evacuation orders, or did a lot of them stay put? What did you hear?
DESANTIS: Yes, I think so.
There were evacuations issued, particularly for the barrier islands in Escambia County. And I think most people decided to stay put. Now, part of that, Neil, was, if you looked at it Monday night, you would have said Pensacola was probably not even in the cone or barely even in the cone.
CAVUTO: Right. Right.
DESANTIS: People were bracing for a Mississippi impact.
So you got a late wobble on really Tuesday into Tuesday night. And so what happened is, a lot of people stayed put. But they didn’t do — they basically heeded the warnings at that point, in the sense of, when you have a foot of water outside, don’t go in. If you need help, call. And that’s why we were sending search-and-rescues.
So, I think folks behaved — behaved appropriately. I mean, these are judgment calls you have to make. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to always evacuate. And so I think they made that calculation.
But I think we’re all very relieved to not have had any storm-related fatalities up to this point. We are, though, bracing for continuing flood impacts, because it dumped so much rain throughout the Southeast.
DESANTIS: And that’s in Alabama and Georgia. It makes its way down in these rivers.
So you’re already seeing some of the rivers and streams crest. We had to close down part of I-10 today, because the river crested. So, that’s going to be continuing to be an issue in different parts of Northwest Florida probably over the next two to three days.
CAVUTO: You know, when storms happen like this, I wonder. Florida has been a big beneficiary of all these people from high-tax or high-crime states who want to seek out a very low-cost haven like Florida.
And yet, when storms like this occur, does it ever slow that down? Does it ever jar folks, like, oh, you know, it’s expensive where I am, but, man, they get hit a lot?
DESANTIS: Well, Neil, you remember 2004-2005 was a very busy hurricane season, particularly for Florida.
DESANTIS: I think we got hit by four or five of them, some of them major hurricanes.
And a lot of people were wondering the same thing. And I can tell you, since 2005 until the present, people are still coming. And I think that they’re going to continue to do it.
Now, part of it is, it is — it is a risk. You don’t like to have to go through these things. But I can tell you, we’re just hearing — Escambia County, we were talking to the sheriff. And he’s like: Look, we have a Ph.D. in emergency management when you’re up in Northwest Florida as a first responder. You just — it’s just what you do. He’s like: We could have another hurricane tomorrow. We will be ready to take it.
So, I think that, particularly since I have been governor, I have really appreciated just the local folks who are engaged in these efforts are really, really good at emergency management. It’s never easy. Not everything always goes well.
But they plan, they prepare, and they do a good job executing to keep people safe.
CAVUTO: You know, Governor, you’re probably aware that, in New Jersey today, the governor finally succeeded — this was a third attempt — to raise the top state income tax rate to 10.75 percent. I believe that would make it the highest state income rate in the nation.
And he said that the rich should pay their fair share and that this is a burden that must be shared. But the rich can move. They can — they can get out of town. And, oftentimes, when this has happened in other states, they go to your state, they go to Texas, they go to some of these other low-tax environments, where they think they will be treated better.
Do you envision and have you heard of many New Jersey residents in that bracket who are saying, the hell with this?
DESANTIS: Absolutely. And that was happening even before this. And I think it’s going to continue to happen.
And here’s the thing. We don’t have a state income tax. We will not have a state income tax. Our budget in Florida is about half the size of New York state’s budget. We have more people than New York state.
But if you look at the services, we’re providing transportation, all the things that people really care about. So, I think they come, and they have realized, hey, this is a good quality of life. Government focuses on the importance things, but it’s not all-consuming our life, and it’s respecting us as taxpayers.
So I do think that that’s something good. Also, Neil, I think what’s going to happen in the post kind of COVID era is, it used to be you thought you had to be certain key places to do business. Well, people have been doing business remotely now.
And I think more and more people — I have had people tell me, you know, I really don’t need to be not just New Jersey or New York, really other places. We have people in California saying, I don’t really need to be.
And so — and that’s true. And you can be in Florida and still do great in your business. And so we anticipate that continuing.
I will tell you what. The home sales during the height of the pandemic were as strong as they were during the housing boom of the — during the 2000s.
I have had builders tell me, this is the best they have ever done. And they have been doing it for 30, 40 years.
So I think that that’s — that’s really telling.
CAVUTO: I am curious.
You mentioned that you’re not even entertaining a hike in the income tax, the state income tax. But with the flood of people you have had coming into yourstate, I believe in excess of 24 million — now, I could be off Governor. I apologize if I am. But that’s an expensive responsibility too.
And some have advocated, well, we need some sort of a tax or some sort of a means by which to address this huge influx.
What do you say to that?
DESANTIS: Well, I would say, if people are fleeing because of high taxes, they’re coming here, and almost all of them are people who are contributing more than they’re — than they’re taking.
I mean, they’re basically there. They want the public safety, the basic things that we do for everybody. But they’re contributing a lot. I mean, the doc stamp tax that we have when the property is being sold, that helps fill our coffers.
DESANTIS: And so I think we have a good formula here in the state of Florida. And I think…
CAVUTO: Is that enough, Governor?
DESANTIS: Yes. No, I think it is, because…
CAVUTO: I’m well aware of that. Is that enough, and some of the other things?
DESANTIS: I think it is.
CAVUTO: Because it’s marveled a lot of folks, who say, how’s he doing this without the income tax thing, without the estate tax, without any of that?
DESANTIS: Well, I think it’s — I think it’s, in some ways, just a supply- side effect.
People come. We respect the taxpayers. We obviously spend money very wisely. We don’t go overboard. But what happens is, we really reinforce, I think, the good things. And so we have broadened in the tax base, more and more productivity in the state.
So you end up raising more revenue with these low rates than I think you would if you tried to do more confiscatory tax policy anyways. And so we’re going to continue doing what works and following this formula.
Incidentally, we’re going to be able to be fine with our budget through COVID. I had to veto — I vetoed a billion dollars, highest ever line-item vetoes in the history of the state of Florida. And had we not had corona, I would probably not have had to veto that much.
But you make decisions. We are all committed to making sure we’re living within our means. And I think that the revenues that have come in have beat the forecast since May. May, June, July and August, we’re getting more revenue than was initially anticipated.
Now, we have still got more ways to go.
DESANTIS: But I anticipate tomorrow’s jobs report to show that Florida added a significant amount of private sector jobs in the month of August.
CAVUTO: Kamala Harris has been campaigning and busy in your state as well, talking up Latinos and the need to come back to the Democratic Party. And many of them have wandered off.
And one out of three, at least in Florida polls that I have seen, are backing the president. Any predictions about how that vote will go?
DESANTIS: Oh, I think he’s going to win Hispanics.
Obviously, the Cuban American is the bedrock constituency of the Florida Republican Party. He’s going to do even better with them than he did in 2016. And then I think you look at the Venezuelans. He’s been very strong against Maduro.
DESANTIS: But then, beyond that, Neil, Democrats are running around saying, we shouldn’t have kids in school. They’re going to side with teachers unions.
That resonates for a lot of blue-collar parents, Latino and not, but particularly in the Latino community.
CAVUTO: Governor, thank you very much. I’m jumping on you because we have a commercial that will come whether you and I are talking or not.
I want to thank you very, very much, Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida.
We will have much more after this.
CAVUTO: All right, a little bit more activity in New York, Midtown Manhattan right now, but not much, if we take a look at how things are.
But a lot of brokerage houses, investment banks, the big hirers, if you will, it indicated that it might not be happening for a while.
BlackRock, the big asset manager, is saying they can envision this never being back to 100 percent in the office. Deutsche Bank, meanwhile, telling its New York staff, take your time getting back. You could wait another year.
So, no one knows. And here we go.
Now “The Five.”
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