Yesterday, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford tried to explain to a group of people that “conservative governance”, such as in Florida, will prevail over “liberal governance”, as in Illinois, and people will leave Illinois to go to Florida precisely for this reason. The more Weatherford tried to explain his “governance theory”, the more misinformation he gave to his audience.
As many of you know, I live in Illinois, yet I write about Florida politics. Why is this?
As far as why I write about Florida politics, it is because it is something I know. Some of the people who read this blog weren’t even born when I started in Florida politics. And while I am not a “hands on approach” type of person when it comes to politics, I have intensely studied voting trends and done extensive research over the last 20 years.
But why do I live in Illinois? It is by my choice. I am very proud to be an Illinoisan and a Chicagoan. But even with this, I will more than likely move to another state in the near future so that I can complete my PhD. And one of those states will not be Florida. I will more than likely never move back to Florida. And the main reason why this is the case is that people like Speaker Weatherford, Jeb Bush, Rick Scott and others have turned Florida into a national laughing stock. If Florida were to change, I would consider moving back, but not with this leadership.
Being from a family that moved from Chicago to Orlando in 1987, I can tell Mr. Weatherford first hand why people migrate from Illinois to Florida. It has nothing to do with taxes (unless you are mega rich) or any of the other things that he mentions. It has to do with the fact that the high in Chicago today is 33 degrees and currently in Orlando it is 72 degrees. This is why people move from the north to Florida, yet Mr. Weatherford fails to grasp this simple concept.
Another thing that Mr. Weatherford fails to mention when talking about taxes is the actual tax rates. In Illinois, the state income tax is at 3%, which is the lowest income tax rate in the nation. This means that in every “conservative governance” state that has an income tax, taxes at a higher rate than Illinois. So, Mr. Weatherford, you might want to do a little bit more research on “taxes” before you start blasting the State of Illinois.
But what about sales tax. Oh, I will admit, Florida does beat Illinois in that one…. by .25%. The sales tax in Florida is 6%, while in Illinois it is 6.25%. Mr. Weatherford, I highly doubt that people are migrating from Illinois to Florida just to save .25% every time they buy a Snickers bar.
Still, Mr. Weatherford might talk about property taxes, which are higher in Illinois. But even this doesn’t really matter. Why? First, home values in Illinois are much higher than they are in Florida. Second, more people in Illinois own their homes, unlike Florida, which is increasingly becoming a “renter society”. Still, if we were to compare the average property taxes of both states, Illinois is $1,734 higher than Florida. But the median household income in Illinois is $8,935 more than it is in Florida. So, even with all of this “liberal governance”, the citizens of Illinois still come out ahead.
So with this said, let’s continue to look at this “liberal governance”. What does one get with this type of governance? Basically everything. If we look at education, Florida continues to be a laughing stock when in comes to K-12. If we look at higher education, and the flagship universities in both states, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is highly respected around the world and considered one of the best public universities in the United States. While the University of Florida is well respected, it isn’t at the same level as UIUC.
As far as transportation, Florida again is a laughing stock. Only recently did Orlando get a commuter rail system. On the other hand, the “L” in Chicago has been running since 1892. The rest of Florida’s mass transit is also a joke, with regional transit authorities looking under couch cushions for funding. Only Florida Governor Rick Scott would turn away free money, which would have built a profitable, high speed transit system. Instead, California gets that honor.
Law enforcement is also a joke in Florida. With limited funding for law enforcement as well the Republican legislature looking to slash benefits for the law enforcement community, Florida ranks 4th in the nation in violent crime. Illinois, on the other hand, which generously helps their officers, ranks 13th in the nation, even with gun violence in Chicago at an all-time high. Florida Republicans constantly shafting law enforcement makes Florida a more dangerous place to live.
And as far as health care, Florida constantly ranks lower than Illinois in overall quality of health care provided.
So, Mr. Weatherford, let’s recap…. people in Illinois make more money, they take home more money after taxes, we have a better education system, better health care system, better transportation system and a lower crime rate. Basically, everything that state government should provide for is better in Illinois than it is in Florida. Enough said.
Still, why is this the case? Mainly because the conservatives that have run the government the last 20 years have run the state into the ground. And, yes, Mr. Weatherford is part of that system. Republicans have done such a good job at destroying Florida that they are now ready to sell its future to the highest bidder (such as the parent trigger bill). In addition, Florida is the only state that I know of that has actually tried to lower a minimum wage for servers, thus taking more money out of the pockets of hard-working Floridians. All of this happened because of conservatives (both the current Republicans and the conservative Democrats before them).
With all this being said, maybe Mr. Weatherford should do a little research before he start talking about other states. It seems clear that his worldly view doesn’t pass the Florida-Georgia border. He talks about other states as if he has a clue to how they operate, but in fact he doesn’t have a clue. I don’t expect a man who probably doesn’t know the difference between a Lou Malnati’s and a Gino’s East to know about Illinois in the first place.
Oh, and Mr. Weatherford, most retirees from Illinois move to Arizona, not Florida. Hence the reason why the Chicago White Sox moved their spring training facilities from Sarasota to Tuscon. Again, a little research goes a long way, Mr. Speaker.