Governor Scott’s California Ploy

May 9, 2016 by

Gov. Rick Scott went to California trying again to lure businesses to Florida. His charm offensive included criticizing the state’s governor and its policies.

Gov. Jerry Brown called him out for “silly political stunts,” pointed out that California has added more jobs in the last year than Florida, and accused Scott of “sticking his head in the sand” regarding climate change.

To create jobs, Scott could stay in Florida and help mom and pop operations expand their businesses or assist college grads and budding entrepreneurs start new businesses—but that doesn’t get much media attention.

Was the trip good politically? Let’s see, Scott generated media attention for weeks before the trip, ran radio ads in California’s major media markets, insulted that state’s Democratic governor and generated headlines in and outside of Florida.

Much of the coverage of Scott’s trip was less than flattering but anytime the media says “Scott” in the same sentence as “jobs,” the governor adds it to his win column.

Scott used the trip to make a political statement—popular among the Republican base—against raising the minimum wage. California’s is at $10 an hour and is incrementally increasing to $15 by 2022. Florida’s minimum wage is $8.05 an hour.

Prior to his trip, Scott started running radio ads in Los Angeles and San Francisco that attacked raising wages for working people in another state far, far away. Who’s paying for the ads? Enterprise Florida. Who funds Enterprise Florida? Florida taxpayers.

Is that the best use of Florida’s tax dollars—to run radio ads in California, more than 2,500 miles away, that criticize its policy of paying higher wages to hourly employees?

The idea of raising the minimum wage is getting more popular nationally and the critics’ arguments against it are losing steam as cities like Seattle are debunking the myths of corresponding job losses and price increases.

Whether you agree or disagree with increasing the minimum wage, is it a legitimate use of Florida’s public funds to air radio ads in California? Running anti-minimum wage ads in our own state for such a blatantly political purpose would be suspect as well.

Scott’s a wealthy man, so he could use his own money. He could also use his political committee, Let’s Get to Work, which has raised more than $51 million from those doing business with the state of Florida. However, that would highlight the self-indulgent nature of his travel to the West Coast.

Could Scott be looking for his next political gig? His final term as governor ends in January 2019. There’s some disagreement on what his political aspirations might be: Is he eyeing the 2018 U.S. Senate race or is he hoping to catch the Donald Trump train and become his vice president?

Scott’s trip to California was timed shortly before that state’s presidential primaries. And he’s been acting a little more Trumpian lately.

Scott recently ran an ad against a constituent that confronted him in a Starbucks. Wouldn’t Trump say, “You’ve gotta hit back”? And his visit to California was an “in your face” move directed at Gov. Jerry Brown—except he wasn’t actually in his face and used radio ads to deliver the punch.

If Scott wants to be Trump’s VP or a U.S. senator, a more national mindset might serve him better. Wouldn’t an international trade mission partnering with other governors be more productive—and patriotic—than the zero-sum game of poaching jobs from one state to another?

When a business relocates to take advantage of incentives or to pay lower taxes or wages, don’t the top executives make the move, leaving only lower-wage positions for Floridians? Isn’t Scott really saying, come to Florida, where we make sure you can pay our people less?

This system of competition between the states is a boon to corporations but a bust for taxpayers and the middle class. Aren’t most presidential candidates—including Trump—decrying corporations for moving offshore for the same reasons?

And how successful has Scott been?

Scott’s previous trip to California produced no discernible benefit. During a workers’ strike at their ports, Scott tried to convince shippers to change their trading routes to Florida’s ports.

His trip to Pennsylvania brought us Wawa—not the corporate headquarters, just the enthusiastic announcement that the company was planning more gas stations throughout the state.

And, although it’s hard to believe, Yale didn’t jump at Scott’s invitation to relocate to Florida. But all was not lost—the idea was crazy enough to generate national publicity.

Paula Dockery is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland. She can be reached at PBDockery@gmail.com.



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