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DeSantis-Led Florida Rated #1 in Fiscal And Economic Freedom

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been taking a lot of heat lately from his Democratic rivals in deep blue states, but the Republican leader got some great news on Wednesday from a noted libertarian-leaning think tank.

According to the CATO Institute, the Sunshine State is No. 1 in both fiscal and economic freedom, and comes in second overall for personal freedom, Breitbart News reported.

“Florida ranks #1 among the states for economic freedom!” DeSantis noted on Facebook following the release of CATO’s assessment.

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According to the group’s assessment, Florida’s lack of an individual income tax was top on CATO’s list in measuring the state’s economic freedom.

“Florida’s state-level tax collections are more than 1.5 standard deviations below the national average, whereas its local tax collections are a little lower than average. Florida’s fiscal decentralization does not offer a great deal of choice to homeowners, however, because the state has only about half an effective competing jurisdiction per 100 square miles,” CATO said.

“Government consumption and debt are lower than average. Government employment is much below average, falling from 11.2 percent of private employment in 2010 to 8.3 percent in 2019,” the group’s assessment continued.

CATO noted further that Florida also tops in fiscal policy, and second in the ranking for overall personal freedom, the latter of which involves several measurements — gun rights, labor, health insurance, and education. The Sunshine State’s personal freedom measurement has increased significantly under GOP leadership, jumping from 37 in 2013 to 12 now, Breitbart reported, citing the CATO analysis:

After falling relative to other states for a decade, Florida has improved its personal freedom score with big jumps in 2014 and 2015. It is now well above average. Part of this bump was because of the Supreme Court’s nationalization of same-sex marriage.

Before that decision, Florida did not recognize any kind of same-sex partnership, and it banned private contracts similar to marriage with a super-DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). Florida also reformed its civil asset forfeiture regime in 2016, including requiring proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” for forfeitures.

On the downside, the state’s crime-adjusted incarceration rate has fallen a bit from its high but is still a lot worse than average (although criminal justice reform efforts promise help on that front). Arrests for victimless crimes have fallen significantly.

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Florida is one of the top states for educational freedom, although homeschool regulations remain substantial. The cannabis regime is largely unreformed despite recent liberalization of medical marijuana policy (which we recommended in the fourth edition), whereas alcohol is lightly regulated despite beer and wine taxes being a bit high.

Gun rights are mediocre and became more restrictive in 2018, as the state has waiting periods for handguns, local dealer licensing, and virtually no open carry. It does have a “Stand Your Ground” law and protects the right to use sound suppressors.

Tobacco freedom is middling. Automated license plate reader data use and retention has been partially reformed. The state takes DNA from arrestees without a probable cause hearing.

Florida’s No. 1 economic rating comes more than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic began and some 18 months after President Joe Biden took office and enacted policies critics say have led to massive inflation that led to higher gas and food prices, as well as a recession.

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In July, the state’s unemployment rate fell to an unprecedented 2.7 percent, or 0.8 percent lower than the national average.

“U.S. GDP dropped for a second quarter in a row, which is the definition of a recession,” DeSantis noted in July after the federal government released its economic figures.

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“While the Biden Administration and its legacy media cheerleaders are trying to gaslight people about the economic slowdown, we have seen Biden’s poor economic stewardship and the negative impact it has had on families,” he continued.

“Now, Biden wants to tax and spend even more, which will only make things worse,” DeSantis added.

Another first: Under DeSantis, registered Republicans now outnumber registered Democrats by a couple hundred thousand, taking the state largely out of ‘battleground’ status.

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