Are Florida’s Business Groups Becoming More Pragmatic?

By Kartik Krishnaiyer

Florida’s two leading business groups endorsement of Rick Scott’s Medicaid expansion (which ran into trouble in the Senate this week) signaled to many a pragmatic shift by Associated Industries (AIF) and The Florida Chamber. While on the surface it appears the organizations are growing more practical and realistic in approaching the need to grow business in a state that has been in world of economic hurt, a deeper look reveals little if anything has changed.

The business groups continued to push an agenda that includes runaway tax breaks that have shown no past history of attracting large companies or manufacturing jobs to Florida. The industry also wants to use Medicaid expansion as an opportunity to push further Medical Malpractice lawsuit restrictions and more Tort Reform in the state. The 2003 Medical Malpractice Reform legislation which conservatives and business groups promised would attract more doctors  and hospitals to the state hasn’t worked out quite as promised and now we are told we need more “reforms” to have the desired impact. Additionally, the almost constant drumbeat for various types of Tort Reform measures Republicans have forced through the Legislature in order to benefit big business has done nothing to improve Florida’s economy. For the right, solution as always is to further restrict lawsuits and thus the free market. Those who believe in true free market capitalism should be against Tort Reform. If you really think about long and hard,  any support of caps on punitive damages is inconsistent with true capitalism.

But I digress with the discussion of  Tort Reform issues. The real problem is that Florida’s business lobby continued to push tax breaks for everything under the sun and while we have occasional good news like Boeing’s relocation of jobs from Seattle to southeast Florida by and large these tax breaks have failed to attract large employers to the state. While Florida enjoyed a record year for tourism in 2012, we also have a much higher jobless rate the most of the nation and rank below many less populated states in job creation and Fortune 500 re-locations.   While this certainly is not all the fault of the business lobby and Republican leadership, the solutions they have offered have not worked and yet the offer us more of the same under the guise of moderation because of a symbolic position on Medicaid.

Florida’s business leaders and legislators need to work harder to develop more innovative solutions to our state’s sagging economy. That would require some outside the box thinking and perhaps some interaction with non-Tallahassee based lobbyists and small businesses. While AIF  and the Florida Chamber appear more moderate in approaching the 2013 session, and in fact have offered some interesting ideas worth considering and have moved the needle on Health Care somewhat, the majority of what they advocate still is damaging to Florida’s ordinary citizens and will do little alleviate the job crisis Florida continues to face.

As an addendum to this article I also want to add that I have heard very little from the legislature, Palm Beach County or the City of Boca Raton about the Office Depot situation. I trust they are working on finding a solution, as over 5,000 corporate jobs are at stake if the retailer moves its world headquarters to Ohio.

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