Brent Batten: Salesman Scott has a winning product in Florida

Brent Batten: Salesman Scott has a winning product in Florida

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By Brent Batten, Naples Daily News | Original Source

If you’ll allow me the indulgence of paraphrasing Shakespeare twice in the same week, the governors doth protest too much, methinks.

Governors Jerry Brown of California and Terry McAuliffe of Virginia all but mocked Florida Gov. Rick Scott earlier this week for his efforts to recruit businesses to Florida from other states.

Brown wrote Scott a letter scolding, “If you’re really serious about Florida’s economic well-being, then it’s time to stop the silly political stunts and start doing something about climate change.”

“Doing something about climate change” is code for restricting the use of fossil fuels.

Maybe Brown’s idea of economic stimulus is choking off the fuel that drives the economy. But while solar and wind hold promise for the future, in the short term, oil and natural gas will power progress.

McAuliffe posited that recruiting businesses from other states requires hefty taxpayer incentives that cause states to compete with each other.

To a degree he’s right, but he overlooks the fact that Florida has a powerful incentive that doesn’t cost taxpayers anything. It is one of a handful of states that doesn’t assess an income tax on residents.

States like California and Virginia have been losing residents, and the money they spend and the taxes they pay, to low tax states like Florida for years.

Scott is selling Florida to those residents, just like he said he would when he ran for office.

The results are startling, as evidenced by a fascinating website, howmoneywalks.com.

An extension of Travis H. Brown’s 2013 book, How Money Walks, the website offers in comprehensive detail a look at where people move to and from within the U.S.

Using data from the IRS, the website identifies every state and county in the nation and shows how much income is flowing into or out of the area as taxpayers move around.

California is among the losers. Only New York has seen more wealth flee. Florida is hands down the big winner. Of particular interest locally, Lee and Collier counties show up as the favored destination of taxpayers leaving dozens of communities across the country.

It’s validation of what we see so often on the streets, Cubs bumper stickers and Ohio license plates.

Even though the Southwest Florida counties don’t compare in size to destinations like Miami and Tampa, they attract as much wealth, sometimes more.

And as wealth moves, so does prosperity, says Brown, the author not the governor.

“Imagine, if you will, that over the last 15 years you received, just by being you, a windfall of over $86.4 billion dollars. Congratulations. You are the state of Florida,” Brown wrote in the book.

Of course, people don’t move to Florida and give all their money to the state government. The reason many of them move here is exactly the opposite — they want to give less to their state government.

But they end up spending money, paying sales tax all the while, and more importantly, driving the economy.

“Seventy percent of America’s gross domestic product — the measurement of the country’s total economic output, including production, spending and everything else — is based on consumer spending,” Brown writes. “Our economy cannot grow if people do not spend money.”

The fact that people are now spending money in Florida, as opposed to California or Virginia, is the windfall Brown spoke of. “The presence of aggregate income, of real working wealth, is the biggest contributor to and barometer of the health of your local, state and national economy,” he notes.

Anyone who’s moved to Southwest Florida from somewhere else can have fun with the website, clicking on counties and cities to see where your high school chums and former co-workers are relocating.

There’s a good chance you’ll discover some of your former neighbors are finding their way here.

Some examples:

Ohio has lost about $23 billion in income and a total of about 431,000 taxpayers since 1986. More than 100,000 of those taxpayers found their way to Florida. Stark County, near Akron, saw most of the wealth leaving the area head to four Florida counties, three of them _ Pinellas, Lee and Collier _ on the West Coast.

Collier County was among the top spots for people leaving Lake County, Ill., abutting Chicago.

Lee and Collier counties are the top out-of-state destinations for people leaving St. Louis.

California showed a net gain in population and wealth until 1993, when things began trending downward. Since then it has lost more than 600,000 taxpayers accounting for $54 billion in income. Not many move to Florida, opting for new homes in Nevada, Arizona and Texas.

After experiencing some strong growth between 2004 and 2012, Virginia is doing a little better than breaking even in terms of annual income gained through taxpayers moving in and out, with annual gains measured in the millions, as opposed to Florida’s billions. Taxpayers leaving Virginia favor Florida over even neighboring North Carolina.

Scott correctly notes that the more people spend in Florida, the more money the state has to do things like restore the Everglades and renourish beaches.

Far from being a political stunt, his recruitment of businesses and people to Florida seems to make other governors nervous.