Governor Rick Scott has proposed his 2017 budget and guess what – he’s cutting taxes on businesses. For those of you that believed every single tax had been reduced to negligible level on businesses in this state, a surprise is in store- the Governor has creatively found new taxes to cut, this time on items such as rent for small businesses and increased tax holidays.
The Governor said:
“Florida businesses have added more than 1.2 million jobs over the last six years and our economy is booming because of our continued focus on cutting taxes, reducing burdensome regulations and fostering an environment where job creators can grow and succeed in Florida. Our ‘Fighting for Florida’s Future’ budget continues our hard work and cuts taxes by $618 million while making strategic investments in areas that are important to families. Because our economy continues to grow, we are able to make these investments while also paying down debt and setting aside $5 billion in reserves. I look forward to working with the Legislature this session to make Florida the best place in the world for our future generations.”
It seems Governor Scott who is growing in irrelevancy even among Republicans is trying to find some sort of unifying principle to bring the legislature back into his orbit in some fashion. But chances are he will not be successful.
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. This session, Scott’s second-to-last as the state’s chief executive is likely to produce a further irrelevance for the Governor.