No think tank does finances better than the wonks at the CATO Institute, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott earned their praise in the latest fiscal report the organization issued. Scott got an A for pursuing “reforms on both the spending and tax sides of the Florida budget.”
Comparing Scott’s grade with the grade given in the last year his predecessor Charlie Crist served, there’s a wide margin.
Crist got a D.
CATO lauded Scott’s approach to encouraging businesses, a policy that leads to job creation for Floridians. The think tank said Scott “vetoed hundreds of millions of dollars of unneeded spending.” CATO said Scott “wants Florida’s business climate to be the best in the country.”
Crist, in his final year as governor, drew criticism that came as a result of something the current Democrat who was once a Republican then became a Non-Party-Affiliate did—he “switched fiscal gears.” Crist signed more than $2 billion in tax increases into law, including “more than $1 billion in new fees for vehicle licenses, fishing licenses, and other items.”
“Then, exhibiting amnesia, Crist declared in his 2010 State of the State address: ‘My core principle is not to raise taxes.’”
CATO also noted the disastrous impact of Crist’s policy on insurance rates in the state, “causing an exodus of private insurers.” That resulted in a socialist concept for insurance—a government agency became the largest homeowners’ insurance concern in Florida. Such actions place taxpayers at risk of bailouts. Making it worse, Cato said, “Crist has repeatedly opposed bills that would improve the actuarial soundness of the state’s insurance system.”
CATO said Scott tackled “another anti-investment tax burden with his reductions to sales taxes on business purchases of machinery and equipment. Finally, Scott signed a property tax cut for water management districts.”
As debates raged in Washington over flood insurance hikes, Gov. Scott drummed down on Florida’s senators and representatives in the House to do something about rate hikes that had some homeowners seeing their insurance go from approximately $3,000 to $24,000 because of federal flood zone designations, with methods for determining the designations not transparent.
After much back and forth with congressmen and even the president, Scott and other governors with similar concerns celebrated a victory after the House and Senate passed bills to address the problem. Two weather events, Sandy and Hurricane Katrina packed a wallop when it came to flood insurance costs.
As Scott noted, however, “Over the past 35 years, Florida families have paid into the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) over $16 billion, four times more than the amount they have received in claim reimbursements.” His claim was vetted by left of center fact checkers who deemed it true.
Had a solution not been found—had Scott not persisted in his efforts—the impact on real estate in coastal and other areas would have been devastating because if a home was sold, the premiums would skyrocket.
CATO leans libertarian, with a philosophy favoring a free market and individual liberty. The group has earned respect for objective analyses. For instance, in the same year Crist got the D from the group, Democrat governor Joe Manchin received an A.
Despite the fact there is a female Democrat vying for her party’s nomination, the party machine has all but anointed Crist. The former governor even has an Obama campaign guru heading up his team, and thus far, selective left of center media are now praising a governor they once often maligned.
Meanwhile, Scott goes about the business of governing, with private sector jobs growing and unemployment far below where it was when he inherited a messy legacy from Charlie Crist.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/March 14, 2014)