Press Coverage of Florida’s Fiscally Conservative Governor Rick Scott

Florida Governor Rick Scott seems surprisingly unpopular after doing just what he said he’d do when he ran for election in 2010.  He has cut taxes, reduced many government programs in a state that already has a lean state government, and under his watch Florida’s unemployment rate has fallen from above the national average when he was elected to below the national average today.  Yet he still gets a positive evaluation from less than half of Floridians.

Reading my local newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat, this morning (sorry, subscription required to access many stories), two stories focused on Governor Scott caught my eye.

One, on the front page, starts, “Gov. Rick Scott and Florida legislators have traveled the state this year boasting about the extra money they steered toward public schools and teachers.  But for some homeowners, more money for schools comes with a price: A tax increase this fall.”  First, how shocking is it that to increase spending, taxes must go up to pay for that spending?  Only the federal government seems to think otherwise.  But in fact, state tax rates are not rising.  The additional state money is coming from higher revenues due to a stronger economy.  State law that predates the Scott administration requires a local government match to get state education money, and the higher taxes this story refers to are local property taxes in 20 of Florida’s 67 counties that must be increased to get the additional state money.  The only way Governor Scott can be held responsible is if he is blamed for channeling some of the additional state revenues toward education.

The second story that caught my eye has the headline, “Scott’s personal assets shielded from public,” and begins, “Floridians had access to more information about Gov. Rick Scott’s wealth when he was a candidate three years ago than they do now.”  Why is that?  Because after his election, Governor Scott placed his assets into a blind trust.  Not only do Floridians have less information about the governor’s assets, the governor himself has less information, because of the blind trust.  Floridians know as much about the Governor’s personal wealth as he does.

There has been some debate over the years about whether the mainstream media has a liberal bias.  When I read stories like this I tend to think so.  Politics is competitive, we know, and obviously, Florida’s Democrats would like to keep Governor Scott from being reelected in 2014.  This type of news coverage makes me think those Democrats have allies in the media.

Randall G. Holcombe is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University. His Independent books include Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis (edited with Benjamin Powell); and Writing Off Ideas: Taxation, Foundations, and Philanthropy in America .
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