Gov. Rick Scott had a lot of good news to share with the Florida legislature at his State of the State address on Jan. 12. Considering what Florida’s economy looked like when Scott took office, this was surprising.
In 2011, when Scott was sworn in, Florida’s economy was in terrible shape. With over 900,000 jobs lost, an unemployment rate of 11.2 percent, $5.2 billion in debt added, and tens of billions of dollars lost in the all-important tourism industry, the economic outlook for Florida was not looking good.
Yet at this year’s State of the State address, Scott, a Republican, boasted that since the start of his administration just five years ago, Florida has created over 1 million jobs, passing Texas in job creation. In fact, the state is welcoming nearly 1,000 new people per day and has passed New York in population.
So What Is the Model Set by Florida?
It’s simple: Get government out of the way, and unleash prosperity. Since 2011, Florida has created over 1 million jobs in five years, unemployment has been reduced to 5 percent, tourism is stronger than ever (setting records four years in a row), and Florida’s GDP (gross domestic product) is at 2.7 percent growth, which is outperforming the national GDP, which is at 2.2 percent.
Here are several key policy fixes Florida (through Scott’s leadership) implemented to support pro-growth, free-market solutions:
- Instead of raising taxes, Florida cut taxes nearly 50 times. Even though Florida is already a zero-income-tax state (an attractive quality on its own), Scott and the legislature found ways to cut taxes even more. They did this through reducing the number of weeks and payout for unemployment compensation, issuing tax exemptions on machine purchases, extending corporate income tax exemptions, cutting tax on commercial leases, and closing loopholes. There is no question; Florida is creative at cutting taxes.
- Cutting onerous and unnecessary regulations. Since 2011, Florida has cut nearly 3,200 regulations that were once harmful to business. At the start of Scott’s term, there were nearly 21,000 regulations that affected businesses. That’s an impressive 15-percent decrease in less than 5 years.
- Florida is serious when it comes to budgeting. When Scott took office, there was $5.2 billion added to the debt. Since then, Florida now has a projected a $635 million surplus for 2016–2017.
- Florida cuts wasteful spending. In 2015, Scott’s office pushed for $461 million in “special projects” to be cut from the budget.
- Instead of wasteful spending, Florida has spent on infrastructure that helps the economy thrive. Since 2011, Florida has committed over $600 million to update and add to its ports, which generate nearly $100 billion in economic value for the state.
- The size and scope of government has been reduced. Since Scott took office, nearly 11,000 government jobs have been cut, and the most recent budget proposes to cut nearly a thousand more.
With all of these factors at play, the Sunshine State is seeing tremendous improvement and results. Scott, through a “Reaganesque” optimism in the free market, has created an incredible economic comeback for Florida—which other states would be wise to replicate.