Florida Provides a Blueprint Other States Should Follow | Opinion

By: Jeremy Torisk

Appeared in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

A new report card of America’s governors put together by famed economists Art Laffer, Steve Moore, and others ranks Gov. Ron DeSantis as the number three head state executive in the country. The scoring system is based on a wide variety of factors that fall into three buckets: Executive, fiscal, and economic policy.

As a small business entrepreneur in Coral Springs, I agree and give Gov. DeSantis two thumbs up. And I’m not alone. Florida was among the top ten states to grow in population percentage-wise in 2021. It’s no surprise why people that are voting with their feet are attracted to the Sunshine State.

Exhibit A is the tax code.

Florida residents and small business owners get to keep more of their own money because unlike most other places, there’s no state income tax. For families, that means budgets go further to cover mortgage payments, daycare, food, and gas. And these financial savings are particularly important now as out-of-control government spending in Washington has triggered four-decade high inflation.

For small businesses, tax savings are also clenched from the jaws of Tallahassee. You see, most small businesses are structured as “pass-through” entities—meaning revenue is taxed as the owner’s individual income. So although entrepreneurs are subject to federal income taxes, they benefit from no state income taxes similar to individuals.

And as we experienced following the federal tax cuts bill passed in 2017, small businesses don’t simply hoard reserve cash for a rainy day. They invest extra dollars back into higher employee wages to retain quality talent, more robust benefits, facility upgrades, and to expand operations. It’s economic fuel that revs up the engine of Main Street and makes Florida a magnet for entrepreneurs.

But just because Florida already has a competitive tax code doesn’t mean Gov. DeSantis is complacent; he keeps moving the ball forward. Just last year, state tax cut legislation was signed into law that saved taxpayers nearly $200 million. Not a bad added bonus for living in a state characterized by sandy beaches and palm trees.

Then came the coronavirus pandemic. Not even a tropical paradise can put up a full defense against an invisible enemy.

But to make the best of a bad situation, Gov. DeSantis adopted a restrained, fact-based approach to the pandemic—unlike other states that became drunk with executive power. California, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey are prime examples.

Once the coronavirus was better understood and experts figured out who was most at risk, Florida was one of the first states to give businesses the green light to reopen and residents to re-engage with society. We were also one of several states that ended enhanced unemployment benefits early, which incentivized workers to jump back into the labor force.

As a result, the economy was able to bounce back more quickly. Examine the unemployment levels to see what I mean. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more people working in the Sunshine State now compared to before the pandemic. That is not the case in many other states across the country. Nationwide, there are more than 1.5 million fewer people holding down a job now than February of 2020.

Florida should act as a beacon for other states and federal lawmakers to follow. Policies that empower entrepreneurs to do what they do best, run a business and create economic opportunity, creates a rising tide that lifts all boats. Washington needs to reset their policy agenda accordingly.

Jeremy Torisk is the founder of the business advisory firm Torisk Pro Advisors, based in Coral Springs.