Pensacola News Journal, March 19, 2017
Headlines across Florida are highlighting the strong private-sector jobs created in January. It’s true, January was a banner month for jobs with 51,000 new jobs added in Florida. Unfortunately, that’s where the good news turns to concern. That’s because brand new U.S. labor statistics show Florida created fewer jobs in 2016 than in 2015 – 60,800 private sector jobs fewer to be precise. And, if Florida leaders aren’t careful, this may be just the beginning of a downward trend.
For more than a year, some in the Florida Legislature have been sending negative signals to businesses that Florida isn’t as interested in growing jobs and businesses as it once was. And just last week, 87 members of the Florida House voted to eliminate two dozen of Florida’s targeted and proven economic development programs.
Florida has advantages, however, we also have a major lawsuit abuse problem, we’re the only state that taxes small business rent, and our unfunded pensions cost eight times what we invest in economic development. The point is that until Florida’s Republican led legislature puts jobs and families first, now is the worst possible time to send signals that our legislature doesn’t care about Florida’s competitiveness. Taking economic development strategies that work off the table is short sighted and, without question, damages Florida’s ability to continue to lead the nation in job creation, particularly for small businesses who create most of the new jobs.
If Florida could compete on its sunshine-soaked beaches and current lack of personal income tax alone, our state would forever win. But the fact is, our competitors aren’t giving up these important economic development tools anytime soon. Our legislature should be making Florida more competitive, not eliminating job creation tools.
So while some in the legislature have turned their back on job creation, and are signaling to the rest of the nation that we’re not interested in their high-wage jobs, the Florida Chamber of Commerce isn’t giving up. We’ll keep fighting for jobs that support our families and Florida’s economy.
Before any serious discussion about taking economic development tools off the table, we should first make Florida more competitive by ending lawsuit abuse, stopping the Florida-only tax on rent for small businesses, ending unfunded liabilities on our pension system and more.
Mark Wilson is the president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.