Do Flor⁠i⁠da vo⁠t⁠ers wan⁠t⁠ soc⁠i⁠al⁠i⁠sm?

By: Sal Nuzzo / 2018




As has been the case so many times in recent history, this year’s election in Florida might be the most important race to watch. The governor’s race is a proxy battle that pits a Trump-endorsed congressman against the Bernie Sanders-endorsed mayor of Tallahassee. Indeed, a Trump versus Bernie battle was what many expected to see in the 2016 presidential election – and may very well see in the future. The candidates for Florida governor, Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum, are running on vastly different fiscal policy agendas in a race that could give political observers insight into what to expect in 2020.

Like Trump, DeSantis largely adheres to the Rick Scott/Jeb Bush principles of cutting taxes wherever possible, getting taxpayer dollars back in the hands of taxpayers, and reaping the economic prosperity in return. (The numbers don’t lie.) DeSantis has proposed reducing or eliminating two relatively unknown, but highly anticompetitive, taxes – the Communications Services Tax and the Business Lease Tax. The CST is among the highest in the country and Florida is the only state that levies a tax on business rent costs. He’s also proposed further cuts to Florida’s corporate tax rate. The principles that motivate DeSantis’ proposals have been a huge factor in Florida’s success – close to two million new jobs and a $1 trillion-dollar economy over the last eight years. You can see a theme here – cut taxes, promote small business activity, and see the economy soar. It’s not difficult logic.

By contrast, Gillum has set an agenda that closely mirrors Bernie Sanders’ views. Among Gillum’s proposals are massive hikes in the state’s corporate tax rate; government-controlled healthcare; a $15 statewide minimum wage; and government mandates on teacher salaries. And while countless books have been written on the fantasy versus reality of these atrocious ideas, let’s focus on the ultimate arbiter of what drives a state’s policy path: taxes.

A recent analysis from the James Madison Institute, Florida’s leading policy think tank, brings a healthy dose of economic reality to the pie-in-the-sky fantasies of Gillum. He may mean well, and he may be well-intentioned, but we live in the world of hard economic facts. This study is loaded with facts that throw cold water on Gillum’s proposals. Gillum’s tax plan has no hope of being enough to fund even a portion of what he would like to spend. The proposals Gillum has offered to pay for his big-government agenda fall billions of dollars short.

Economists examine not just what’s in the frame of the snapshot, but the entirety of the surrounding landscape. Enacting Gillum’s proposals would require one of two things: either a massive hike in the state’s sales tax (to levels that would cripple lower-income families) or, heaven forbid, the imposition of a state income tax on all Floridians. Those are the facts. Should his proposals somehow pass, the effects on Florida’s economy would be an unmitigated disaster. JMI’s analysis indicates Florida would stand to lose more than 155,000 jobs and north of $28 billion in economic activity every year.

States should be the laboratories of democracy, but when experiments fail, policymakers must take note. From Illinois to New York to New Jersey to Connecticut and more, we find each and every time that elected leaders pursue high-tax agendas, everyday working taxpayers foot the bill and the economy suffers. Florida shouldn’t make that mistake. It should continue to pursue a pro-family, small-business friendly fiscal agenda with low taxes and reasonable spending levels.

Brandon Arnold is executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union. Sal Nuzzo is vice president of policy at the James Madison Institute.

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