Orlando Sentinel
“Florida has the right balance for a bright, prosperous future”
By Dr. Bob McClure
September 30, 2015Floridians received some good news about their future: The General Revenue Fund for our state will have a surplus in the next fiscal year. This is good news for prosperity of individual Floridians, as well as the economic stability of our state.As mandated by the Florida Constitution, the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, along with the Legislative Office of Economic and Demographic Research, released the State of Florida’s “Long-Range Financial Outlook” for the fiscal years 2016-17 through 2017-18. The report projects, for fiscal year 2016-17, the General Revenue Fund for our state will have a surplus of $635.4 million; and, in addition, the outlook remains positive throughout the three-year forecast period.Not only is this good news for our state; it is also another demonstration that governing by conservative fiscal principles works for the long-term benefit of the people of Florida. As constitutionally required, the budget is in balance, and state revenue is outpacing state spending. Of note, the report states, “fiscal strategies will not be required.”Going back to the severe recession years of 2007-2010, that was not the case. The Legislature had to use “strategies” to balance the budget with no reserves set aside at all. But, from the time Florida’s economy began improving in 2011 until this year, surpluses have grown, and our state has $1 billion held in reserve.Spending within the state’s limits, and looking for ways to reduce that spending, is one side of an economically sound equation. The Florida House’s resistance in the 2015 legislative session to the quick fix of accepting short-term federal Medicaid funds in exchange for expanding Medicaid rolls and adding federal strings proved a responsible decision. Medicaid is one-third of Florida’s budget and just recently, the Legislature’s top economist revealed that the program is expected to swell, adding 250,000 more Floridians.As many have come to realize, access to health insurance does not equate to access to quality health care. State control over this part of spending must be held in check, but most importantly, we need to ensure people are receiving the care they need. With Florida’s fiscal health in check, lawmakers can focus on other priorities and not be overwhelmed by a state in a debt crisis. This allows lawmakers more time to enact policies that will truly improve our health-care system, especially to the benefit of those most in need.The other side of the equation, of equal importance, is growing the economy. The state’s focus on creating more jobs (917,400 since December 2010) — higher paying jobs — preparing an educated work force, and bringing new businesses to Florida has worked to increase Florida’s gross domestic product. It stands to reason: The people of a state benefit and state revenues grow when more employed people spend more money.Now, add to that the powerful principle of returning hard-earned income back to the people, and revenues are all the more increased. This is exactly what happened when the Legislature passed, and Gov. Rick Scott signed off on, a budget returning $400 million to the taxpayers.Another factor frequently used to gauge the health of a state is personal income growth — primarily related to changes in salaries and wages. The report documents, “Florida finished the 2014 calendar year with 4.6 percent growth over the prior year — above the national growth rate of 3.9 percent and ranking 11th among all states. The state’s strength also revealed itself in the comparison of rankings between years; the results for the entire 2013 calendar year placed Florida 13th in the country. Data for the first quarter of 2015 shows that personal income grew in 46 states and that growth accelerated in 15 of those states. The fastest growth, 1.3 percent, was in Florida, which ranked the state number one in the country.”Thanks to Florida’s leaders holding fast to conservative fiscal principles, Floridians can look to the future with the expectation of greater success. Applying the balance of government spending restraint paired with growing jobs and the economy is the path to greater personal economic prosperity and improving quality of life for all Floridians.J. Robert McClure is president and CEO of The James Madison Institute.Article: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-florida-fiscal-future-093015-20150929-story.html