As we approach the 2013 Legislative session we are once again hearing ad nausea about job creation and how a positive climate for business needs to be created in Florida. The Republican majority, as well as complicit Democrats, constantly bring this topic up. Floridians of different political and ideological persuasions all agree that we need to attract new business to the state. Republican legislators constantly tell us tax breaks will create jobs yet the track record of job creation in recent years has been abysmal despite constant tax cuts. Florida’s jobless rate continues to be much higher than most of the nation.
With the exception of the much ballyhooed Scripps facility attracted by the Bush Administration to Palm Beach County, efforts to attract large companies to relocate administrative headquarters and large facilitates to Florida have fallen flat. At the same time Florida’s public universities have faced remarkable cuts in budgets and as a result a drop in national reputation.
For all the tax incentives and rhetoric of Republicans in the legislature and executive branch they have proven over the past decade they are consistently unable to attract business to the state. Interestingly, Republicans in neighboring southern states have fared much better at attracting large corporations to either relocate or set up major operations.
For a state of its size, one of four true “mega-states” with more large and medium sized urban areas than any other state in the US, Florida has a pathetically small number of Fortune 500 companies based in the state. Despite a tax rate lower than most states and “right to work” status which prevents unions from effectively organizing, Florida’s Republicans have failed badly.
For example, Virginia has attracted five new Fortune 500 companies to the state in the past decade. Florida has attracted none. While having the fourth largest population in the country and total Republican control of state government for 14 years, Florida ranks just 11th in Fortune 500 company headquarters.
While unable to attract new businesses or foster a climate of innovation that develops successful companies the Republicans have done more damage with cuts to Higher Education that have resulted in the plummeting national reputation of the state’s top universities.
Perhaps the GOP’s agenda is to protect current Florida businesses by busting unions, lowering taxes and preventing competition or innovation in the marketplace. Weakening higher education ensures that chances of a well educated workforce emerging to threaten the old order are remote.
Republicans and Democrats in other southern states deserve credit for their ability to encourage and solicit economic development from large corporations. The types of high end corporate jobs that Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee in particular have attracted over the last fifteen years is admirable. While those states have moved forward, Florida, once the envy of the region has stagnated or regressed. While Republicans in other southern states have taken governing seriously, Florida’s GOP have chosen to use control of state government as an opportunity to implement the experiments of right-wing Washington think tanks and special interest groups. It is no small wonder Florida continues to be the butt of jokes nationally.