Gov. Rick Scott: Florida’s Ambassador For Cheap Labor And Mediocrity
Florida Gov. Rick Scott went to California last week to steal some jobs.
Guess how that brilliant idea turned out.
Scott urged California businesses to pack up and move to Florida because the minimum wage in Florida is only $8.05 an hour.
That was actually the thrust of his selling point: Why are you paying your workers $10 an hour? Floridians will work dirt cheap!
Scott spent lots of taxpayer money to carry this dubious offer to the Golden State, where it went over like a lead balloon.
In a caustic retort, Gov. Jerry Brown wrote: “If you’re truly serious about Florida’s economic well-being, it’s time to stop the silly political stunts and start doing something about climate change — two words you won’t even let state officials say.”
A Los Angeles Times editorial called Scott’s California trip “especially offensive.” It said he “should be home in Florida … trying to create well-paying jobs, instead of trolling for low-wage ones that he can steal in California, undermining this state’s effort to pay a living wage to more of its low-skilled workers.”
The impetus for Scott’s trip was California’s decision to raises its minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next six years. Scott says the wage hike will cost the state 700,000 jobs, a figure he got from a conservative think tank that didn’t even use California jobs data.
Meanwhile, a study by the Labor Center at the University of California-Berkeley predicted no net job loss in Los Angeles as a result of the state’s phased-in pay increases.
In Florida, we’re used to Scott’s obsession with job numbers instead of quality jobs. It will be the centerpiece of his U.S. Senate run in 2018, by which time we might lead the nation in convenience-store openings.
Last week’s “trade mission” to California was Scott’s second. His first try came in March 2015, and since then California employers have added twice as many new jobs as Florida employers have.
So, that trip didn’t work out so great, either.
Unfortunately for Scott, California’s economy is booming right now.
Although the unemployment rate is higher than in Florida, there is no corporate exodus. Ironically, census figures from 2014 indicate that more Florida residents are moving to California than going the other direction.
Florida is an easier sell to multimillionaires looking to relocate in a state with no income tax. That’s undoubtedly one of the reasons that Scott himself moved to Florida in 2003.
However, Florida isn’t so alluring to firms looking for a skilled and educated labor force. That’s because the state still spends an embarrassingly paltry amount on its schools.
According to the National Education Association, the average salary of public teachers in Florida in 2013-2014 was $47,780. That’s 39th in the country, worse than even Alabama or Louisiana.
In California, the average teacher salary that year was $71,396.
Now, if you’re on the board of Apple or Microsoft, where do you think your employees with school-age children would rather live?
It’s bad enough that Scott flies around the country bragging about Florida’s pathetically low wages, but he’s using public money to run radio commercials in other states, beseeching companies to close up shop and move to Florida.
Which would basically screw all the working people on their payrolls.
The governor’s job-poaching junkets are, as the Los Angeles Times said, offensive. But his mission is futile, and his lack of sophistication is breathtaking.
Scott puts the “goober” in gubernatorial.
In March, he invited Yale University to leave its iconic Connecticut campus and resettle in Florida, to avoid state taxes on its endowment fund.
That would be Yale University, founded in 1701. A perfect fit for Boca Raton, right? Or maybe Yeehaw Junction?
Whether Scott was serious or not (he insisted he was), he came off looking like a dolt. They’re still laughing at him (and us) in New Haven.
Out of courtesy to his GOP colleagues, Scott focuses his job-stealing raids on states with Democratic governors. There’s nothing for them to be afraid of, no manic stampede of companies — or Ivy League universities — to the Sunshine State.
All we Floridians can do is apologize to the rest of the country for any past and future appearances by our weird ambassador for cheap labor and mediocrity.
Don’t take him seriously. We certainly don’t.
Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.
(c) 2016, The Miami Herald Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Photo: Florida Gov. Rick Scott addresses an economic summit in Orlando, Florida, in this June 2, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Steve Nesius