Regardless of one’s ideology, I think we can all agree that we are, as the saying goes, living in interesting times.
I am reminded of something a friend told me recently: “Think back 30 years ago. Who would have predicted that World Wrestling sensation Jesse Ventura would be elected Governor of Minnesota, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger would be elected Governor of California TWICE, and Donald Trump would be elected President?” Indeed.
We would be forgiven, then, for missing the onset of what might be the single-most pivotal election in Florida’s history. An election cycle that may chart the course of our state for generations. My wife will tell you I am not prone to hyperbole. The 2018 election in Florida is that important.
Consider Florida’s cabinet: Governor, Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer, Commissioner of Agriculture. Voters will be choosing new occupants for each of these offices (CFO Jimmy Patronis was appointed to serve out the remainder of Jeff Atwater’s term and will be on a statewide ballot for the first time).
At the top of its list of duties, a new cabinet will set a policy agenda, appoint agency heads, oversee a $950 billion-dollar economy (the 18th largest on the planet), and navigate the three biggest economic drivers of our state’s engine – construction, agriculture and tourism. And if that wasn’t enough, bear in mind that because of mandatory retirements, our next governor will immediately be able to appoint three new justices to Florida’s Supreme Court.
In addition, every member of the Florida House and half the Florida Senate will face election. Over the past 20 years, Florida’s Legislature has set a clear path, embracing limited government involvement in the economy and free markets. In 2018, the legislature passed an $87-billion budget. By contrast, the state of New York, with slightly less population, passed a $175-billion budget.
Because of these policies, we have seen greater degrees of economic prosperity than we otherwise would, and far better than virtually every other state in the Union. Florida bounced back from the “Great Recession” faster than anywhere, and over the last eight years, our economy will have created approximately 1.75 million new jobs. Moreover, these past 20 years have seen $125 billion in annual income migrate from states like Illinois, Connecticut and New York to the Sunshine State.
Florida is also pivotal at the federal level. One of the most closely-watched U.S. Senate races pits Rick Scott against incumbent Bill Nelson. Control of the U.S. Senate will hinge on this race.
And if all of this wasn’t enough to make the election a must-follow, there are 13 constitutional initiatives on the ballot. Initiatives put forth by the Legislature, citizens and the Constitution Revision Commission have the possibility to either reinforce or radically alter the trajectory of our state.
But as Lewis Carroll of “Alice in Wonderland” fame once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
For more than 30 years, the James Madison Institute has sought to articulate solutions for a more prosperous and free Florida that provides economic opportunity for every citizen of the Sunshine State, regardless of one’s station in life. It is clear that an educated and informed voting citizenry is critical to our state’s future.
Because make no mistake, future generations will look back on this election as a hallmark of Florida’s history.
Dr. J. Robert McClure III is president and CEO of the James Madison Institute, a non-partisan think tank based in Tallahassee devoted to research and education on public policy issues.