Over the past several months, Rick Scott’s “economic development” programs have taken an interesting turn. Rather than focusing on creating new job opportunities from Florida-based businesses by making infrastructure investments (remember 40,000 plus job lost when he refused high-speed rail), creating a tax structure that helps Florida based companies (out-of-state companies are still sending profits to other states and not paying taxes) or making significant investments in education (Florida still ranks near the bottom in per-capita funding), he has started traveling to other states like a snake-oil salesman trying to get businesses to relocate to Florida. Recently, the press has reported that the Governor is taking his music-man road show to Kentucky. As this story has percolated around the Capitol City, I have been asked about this approach and whether or not there is any truth the Governor’s claims that his policies are so damn good that people should be rushing to Florida. I am not an expert on Kentucky so I can’t make a fruit-to-fruit comparison, but I do know a lot about Florida…enough to know that people in Kentucky should impolitely show him the door.
There are a lot of areas we can focus on here but in the interest of brevity, let’s just look at a few.
First, the Governor’s jobs creation prowess. While he still covers his ears utilizing the toddler strategy of “la la la, I can’t hear you” when people bring it up, his job creation performance has fallen far short of the promises he made as a candidate and even shorter of what Florida’s economy needs. He promised, and the press has confirmed this promise repeatedly, that his tired old trickle-down economic policies would create 700,000 new jobs IN ADDITION to normal economic growth. That means he would need to see a 1.7 million increase in jobs numbers. However, even the figure he cites in his letter to Kentucky, a dubious number at best, is 300,000 new private sector jobs. This is nowhere near his pledge and nowhere near where we need to be. The Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy Florida reports that state economists have pointed out that we are 580,000 jobs short of our pre-recession peak! We also continue to shed public sector jobs under his watch. Florida currently has the fewest state employees per 10,000 in population, the fewest in the nation, almost 50% of the average number in all the states. So even on that one basic point, his economic policy acumen is more than suspect.
There’s more. If we look at the types of jobs being created, we get the picture that something is rotten in Denmark and Scott’s economic policies. A quick look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the jobs that are being created are primarily in lower wage sectors, creating real problems for many Floridians. The average wage in Florida continues to drop, continuing a five-year trend with average wages totaling only 87.2% of the national average in 2014. The FCFEP reports that median household income was $47,886 in 2013, the last year full data is available, placing at 36th in the nation. The GINI Index in Florida, which is a measure of income inequality use by economists, makes us the 6th worst in the nation and we are the 4th worst for the gap between the top 1% of earners and the bottom 99%! Let’s not forget the ALICE Report (Asset Limited, Income Constrained) from the United Way issued earlier this year showing that more than 3.2 million households in Florida are struggling and not making ends meet. That’s almost 45% of all households in the state! Really?! The Governor is bragging about his record?
I have been told to keep these posts and my rants to a reasonable length but just these basic facts about Florida’s economy should be enough to bring serious doubt to any Kentucky business even considering the Governor’s selective retelling of his terrible record. They should also consider that we are almost dead last in education spending, woefully behind in infrastructure maintenance and improvements and dead last in state revenue collections per capita making meaningful improvements impossible. There are two things we should ask of Rick Scott. First, could you please stop travelling the world with tax payer money in an Orwellian effort to create the illusion that your failures are actually successes? Second, instead of all the showmanship, why not pursue policies that will actually work such as expanding Medicaid, closing corporate tax loopholes, raising wages and investing in education and infrastructure. There is bi-partisan support in the Legislature for these and other initiatives; they just need a little leadership from the 1st Floor.
Companies are more than owners and CEOs…they are workers, customers and families. Rick Scott’s polices have been great for the guys at the top but terrible for everybody else. I am pretty confident that Kentucky businesses know that and that tricky Rick will come back from his trip empty handed.