Bernie Sanders-Endorsed Florida Man Threatens America's Freest Economy
In Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum shocked Florida politics by winning the party’s nomination. Trailing third place or lower for most of the campaign, Gillum received a significant late boost thanks to an enthusiastic activist base and the endorsements of national figures such as Bernie Sanders. A look at Gillum’s agenda though offers a great illustration of what moving towards the “democratic-socialist” left would mean for an economy.
Though widely seen as a moderate “purple” state, in recent years Florida has become a leader in fiscal responsibility. Not only is Florida one of the seven states without an income tax, but it also has the lowest amount of government spending per person in the country. A contributing factor is that it has one of the lowest public-private employee ratios in the US. Even powerful special interest groups, like Visit Florida (the state’s government-funded tourism agency) and Enterprise Florida (a state organization that offers businesses relocation taxpayer subsidies with questionable results) have seen their budgets slashed and existence threatened.
The result has been Florida becoming the freest state for three consecutive years, according to the Cato Institute. As Ryan McMaken has noted, this has led to Americans voting with their feet and embracing Florida at the expense of California and New York.
Andrew Gillum’s vision for Florida would change all of that.
On the campaign trail he took the same dangerous worldview of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and condensed it into a state-wide platform. As such, Gillum’s agenda is one of redistribution, rather than opportunity.
For example, one of his top priorities is expanding Medicaid, in order to decrease the number of the population that is uninsured. While studies have questioned the actual health benefits of Medicaid coverage, the impact it would have on the Florida budget would be significant. Already the largest portion of the Florida budget, conservative estimates have placed the cost of Medicaid expansion in 2020 at $1 billion a year. This also fails to factor in future unplanned decreases in Federal subsidies, as the Federal government continues to bankroll over 90% of Medicaid expansion funding1.
This stands in stark contrast to recent policy gains made in the state. Rather than expanding government insurance, Florida has prioritized entrepreneurship and opportunity. For example, this year the direct primary care model was exempted from regulation that applies to traditional health insurance. Recent licensing reforms have also further empowered nurse practitioners and nurses, helping to significantly increase the supply side of medical care in the state.
Gillum also wants to reverse Florida’s progress in another vital area: education.
While still far away from an ideal educational environment, Florida’s legislature has made significant strides in promoting school choice. While charter schools still face some of the downsides of government schools, Florida law largely insulates them from school board politicization and offers significant flexibility in curriculums and educational philosophies. The preference of parents has been made clear. The state has seen charter schools growing far faster than traditional public schools.
Gillum has campaigned on reversing this progress. A vocal opponent of charter schools, his approach to education calls for significant funding increases to traditional public schools. Ignoring the fact that there has been no correlation in results and increased funding, Gillum’s education plan calls for increasing public school spending by a billion dollars.
Of course a billion here and a billion there adds up to a significant increase in state spending. Since Florida’s government doesn’t enjoy the same privileges as Washington when it comes to hiding the cost of their decisions, Gillum’s platform comes with a heavy bill for tax payers.
In order to pay for his spending binge, Gillum proposes increasing corporate taxes 40% to 7.75%. As Americans for Tax Reform notes, that would “give Florida the highest corporate tax rate in the region -- higher than Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi.”
By making Florida less competitive on taxes, Gillum’s agenda would slow Florida economic growth and stifle opportunity – and that’s without factoring in the consequences of his proposed $15 minimum wage. The result would be more Floridians dependent on government, growing the budget further still, and increasing the burden on the productive sector. The result is a socialist spiral of economic destruction.
Luckily among Florida’s assets has been that it has historically benefited from its unique relationship to Cuba and a significant population with first hand experiences in Castro’s brutal communist regime. In fact, one of Florida’s most prominent small government reformers is new Speaker of the House Jose Oliva, himself the son of Cuban immigrants (and heir of the Oliva cigar company.) Hopefully voters will recognize the true cost of the “free stuff” Andrew Gillum is campaigning on.
If not, Florida’s ranking as the freest state may soon come to an end. Under Gillum, the Sunshine State would come to look more like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s New York.