A stunning announcement came out of Florida this week. The state that was exhibit A for economic disaster two years ago is now experiencing a tremendous rebound thanks to Gov. Rick Scott’s pro-growth policies. Washington should take a page – no, several pages – out of Scott’s book.
Since December 2010, one month before Scott took office, the unemployment rate in Florida has dropped from 11.1 percent to 7.8 percent. That rate is lower than the national average. After two years of Scott’s policies, 282,000 private sector jobs have been created; in the previous four years the state had lost 825,000 jobs. The past two years have set records for tourism, Florida’s biggest industry. In 2012, 89.3 million people visited the state, up 2.3 percent from the previous record-setting year.
Conservatives remember the awkward embrace former Gov. Charlie Crist gave to President Obama in accepting the ill-advised 2009 “stimulus package.” Florida’s economy only got worse, the jobs kept disappearing, and no one knows where the money went.
When Scott took over, he was handed an economy in the tank, large debts, and budget deficits – a complete mess. Then he went to work.
* Reforming state government: He oversaw a reduction in over 2,300 needless regulations and 12,000 government positions.
* Cutting taxes: He cut property taxes by more than $210 million and eliminated the state tax for 63 percent of the businesses that paid it when he was a elected. He is doubling down in the current legislative session by proposing to eliminate the tax for all manufacturing companies – which would mean that 70 percent of all Florida businesses would no longer pay the tax. He intends to make that 100 percent before he’s done.
* Personal income has also risen by 6.6 percent in Florida since Scott took office, going against a national trend where the family dollar is being stretched razor-thin.
Conservatives are also right to raise his decision to expand Medicaid as a point of contention. Candidly, I wish he and several other Republican governors would not have gone this route. At least Gov. Scott, unlike the other GOP governors, was able to exact waivers from the Obama Administration that will allow him to privatize Medicaid.
When looking at the whole record, however, Scott has now made Florida exhibit A for how pro-growth policies work. In addition, he has remained true to conservative principles on other key issues:
* On the sanctity of life, he signed bills that will prohibit the use of state funding for abortions, require an ultrasound for all patients before an abortion procedure, and strengthen parental notification laws.
* On the Second Amendment, he signed a bill protecting gun owners with concealed weapons licenses from silly prosecutions under the “open carry” law if their concealed firearm becomes accidentally visible. He also supported Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law in the face of the hyperbole generated by the Trayvon Martin case.
* On education, he signed a bill to end the much abused practice of “teacher tenure” and instituted merit pay for teachers. It has worked, as Florida teachers and students were recently ranked 6th nationally. With the savings in education over the first two years of his administration, Scott is now able to give teachers a $2500 pay raise and still have a balanced budget.
When you contrast Florida with Washington, there is no contest. A growing Florida economy vs. a struggling national economy. More jobs being created vs. no jobs being created. A balanced budget for a streamlined, reformed government focused on providing effective services to the people vs. an ever-growing monstrous federal government with record deficits and debts.
The whole record is impressive, and Rick Scott deserves a lot of credit for taking the heat for tough decisions, staying the course, and implementing pro-growth policies that are bearing fruit.