Governor Rick Scott is at it again. Living in fantasy land while pushing ideological zealotry down the throats of Floridians under the alter of “economic growth.” Today Governor Scott discussed his “Florida Enterprise Fund” idea. Three years ago Scott pushed a “Manufacturing Tax Credit,” yet after several years of application, Florida is ranked 43rd nationally in terms of the percentage of the workforce in manufacturing jobs.
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 heavy industry to the state. Interestingly, Republicans in neighboring southern states have fared much better at attracting large corporations to either relocate or set up major manufacturing operations. Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina have all been wildly successful in transitioning their economies towards more manufacturing. Florida on the other hand has repeatedly failed in this effort.
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 particularly Governor Scott who has made it a priority have failed badly in attracting manufacturing jobs. For example, Virginia has attracted five new Fortune 500 companies to the state in the past decade. Florida has attracted just one. Florida ranks just 11th in the number of Fortune 500 company headquarters in the state.
While unable to attract new industry 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. Instead of focusing on education, discussion of the universities among state legislators usually boils down to football games and campus carry bill for guns.
Perhaps the Scott 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. Tax breaks for manufacturing sector did not bring enough new jobs in an effective enough manner to justify the $115 million expenditure. Now Scott wants to double that bet and push harder for tax breaks. This time however, I sense many Republicans in the legislature might realize that Governor Scott, a lame duck himself has gone too far with his ideological crusade. Right now, Scott’s promises of a vibrant Florida economy filled with manufacturing jobs and corporate relocation’s seems like something out a science fiction novel. Having failed multiple times to deliver the promised changes to Florida’s economy, many in the GOP seem poised to move on past the growing irrelevance of an increasingly marginalized Governor.