A lot has been written about this past week’s Q-poll. But one takeaway is while Floridians may be split on cultural issues such as Same-Sex Marriage and on lean against the legalization of marijuana, the GOP has a problem on education issues. Higher education has suffered dramatically under the reforms pushed by former Governor Jeb Bush, making Florida’s colleges and universities less competitive academically and in terms of research with their counterparts from outside the state.
The continued problems Florida has with primary and secondary education have affected the state’s ability to attract businesses. Despite the bravado of the state legislature and GOP leadership about creating jobs and attracting business they have failed.
We constantly hear about how a positive climate for business needs to be created in Florida. The Republican majority as well as complicit Democrats constantly bring this topic up. Floridians of different political and ideological persuasions all agree that we need to attract new business to the state.
But with the exception of the much ballyhooed Scripps facility attracted by the Bush Administration to Palm Beach County efforts to attract large companies to relocate administrative headquarters and large facilitates to Florida have fallen flat. At the same time, Florida’s public universities have faced remarkable cuts in budgets and as a result a drop in national reputation.
Florida is the fourth largest state by population in the country but yet is home to the corporate headquarters of just 16 Fortune 500 companies. That ranks 11th in the country behind eight states with a smaller population including Minnesota and Virginia.
For all the tax incentives and rhetoric of Republicans in the legislature and executive branch they have proven over the past decade they are consistently unable to attract business to the state. Interestingly, Republicans in neighboring southern states have fared much better at attracting large corporations to either relocate or set up major operations. That could be because the Democrats in those states have offered differing ideas or simply because the RPOF is arrogant and more into rewarding cronies than those who actually create new jobs in the state.
Despite a tax rate lower than most states and “right to work” status which prevents unions from effectively organizing, Florida’s Republicans have failed badly.While unable to attract new businesses or foster a climate of innovation that develops successful companies the Republicans have done more damage with cuts to Higher Education that have resulted in the plummeting national reputation of the state’s top universities.
The bottom line is this- the GOP’s rhetoric on creating business doesn’t match the actions of the legislature and Governor. Cuts to higher education and continued tinkering in the name of education “reform” pushed by Jeb Bush and others has hurt Florida’s competitive position. No amount of tax cuts or union busting can undo that damage to the state’s business climate.