George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

Flor⁠i⁠da Pol⁠i⁠⁠t⁠⁠i⁠cs: Flor⁠i⁠da’s Success Is No Acc⁠i⁠den⁠t⁠

By: Dr. J. Robert McClure / 2024

Dr. J. Robert McClure


George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity


January 9, 2024

Is our state perfect? By no means. We have pressing issues to address.

As legislators make their way back to Tallahassee to convene Florida’s 60-day Legislative Session, I have been reflecting a bit on my 20 years at the helm of JMI.

Back in 2004, Jeb Bush was sitting in the Governor’s office and the Sunshine State was in the early stages of its now 25-year journey in conservative governance.

Looking back over the years, I don’t know that I could have fathomed how striking the contrast would turn out, and how fortunate we would be to have the chance to show how much more successful conservative policy is than the ideas and policies put forth by the progressive left.

We sit at a place in history where the contrast could not be more stark and more visible.

I am old enough to remember when the Golden State — California — lived up to its moniker and served as the benchmark of prosperity in all realms. A robust economy, thriving agriculture, sports, tourism, entertainment — California was it. From 1950 to 2000, California grew by more than 300% — from 10.5 million to almost 34 million people. The state saw its representation in Congress grow from 30 to 53. “Go West, young man” was the way.

No longer. A funny thing happened around the dawn of the 21st century, as Florida ramped up its approach in the direction of greater opportunity and more freedom for its citizens, California went the opposite way.

The Sunshine State, from roughly 1998 to the present, took a policy path that recognized individual liberties, promoted free enterprise and understood that markets solve challenges far better than government bureaucrats. From keeping government spending to a minimum to initiating and expanding school choice to reforming health care within the state, to eliminating thousands of unnecessary regulations — Florida took the notion of limited government seriously.

California, over the same time, ballooned the size and scope of government control, took power away from individuals and placed it in the hands of unelected bureaucrats, and bowed down to the idols of big government, public unions, radical environmentalists, and heavy-handed taxation at every possible juncture.

The paths could not be more different, and the results could not be more stark.

Where California is showing itself to be an abject failure, Florida is experiencing incredible success.

While California thwarted school choice at the behest of the all-too-powerful unions as its system stagnated, Florida initiated, embraced, and expanded school choice and along the way has seen achievement gains that lead the nation. Where California’s experiments in the alphabet soup of progressive leftism in higher education have created nothing more than a failure of the grievance industry, Florida rooted out DEI and embraced true academic and intellectual diversity and now stands at the top of the rankings for higher education. Where California is banning gas-powered cars in an unrealistic attempt at showing allegiance to the climate hysterics (a plan destined to fail), Florida embraces an all of the above energy strategy that encourages private innovation to address climate challenges.

One thing is certain in all of this. Neither California’s failure nor Florida’s success is an accident.

That success is perfectly illustrated in the first sentence of a Jan. 3, 2024, article, “[f]or the seventh year in a row, Florida cities are experiencing more growth than any other state in the U.S., according to a new report from U-Haul.” Of the top 25 move destinations, seven were cities in Florida. At the same time as Florida saw 1,000 people a day move in, California saw 206 people a day move OUT.

In 2023, according to the most recent Census report, more than 75,000 people left California seeking an escape from high tax, big government policies sinking the state once led by Ronald Reagan.

It is perfectly illustrated in the fact that the price of a home in California — $836,000 — is more than double that of Florida — $415,000. As California pursues a radical progressive policy agenda, it continues to make homeownership a reality for only the Uber-wealthy. While Florida takes an aggressive approach in policy to address workforce housing needs by making home construction more efficient, California’s mandates, state and local permitting processes, and zoning laws make the dream of homeownership nothing more than a fantasy for tens of millions of the state’s residents.

Furthermore, one can see the vast difference in each state’s budget. Florida’s per capita spending is less than half that of California. While California has never met a source of government revenue it didn’t like, Florida understands that the government cannot create economic wealth — only private markets and free enterprise can do that.

Is our state perfect? By no means. We have pressing issues to address.

When 1,000 people a day move here, housing prices will rise in ways that the state can bring policy to bear. With no spot in the state more than 90 miles from the coast in the middle of hurricane alley, our property insurance system is still reeling from the price control adventures of the early 2000s. As technology continues to take over aspects of our everyday lives, we need to discern the proper role, function and level of regulation.

There exist, and will always exist, challenges we face and improvements we can make. But make no mistake, for everyday citizens, they continue to vote with their feet and declare the ways of Gavin Newsom a failed experiment in progressive ideology.

So, as our legislators begin the arduous process ahead of navigating the more than 1,500 bills that have been filed and homing in on a budget that maintains Florida’s leadership in limited governance, I would encourage House Speaker Paul Renner, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, Committee Chairs, ranking members, freshmen lawmakers and those on their final Session to remember this — Florida’s success is no accident.

Press ahead, and know that the principles of free markets, light touch regulation, and liberty are as much a recipe for timeless success today as they were 25 years ago, and as much as they were in 1787 when this experiment in constitutional self-government began.

Originally found in Florida Politics.