Recently, the Tax Foundation released its annual ranking of state business tax climates. As always, there are more than a few good reasons to be skeptical of the results contained in the report. But aside from the traditional methodological criticisms of any ranking of this type, this year's report includes at least one assertion that should turn the head of even the most casual state tax policy observer.
Florida, a state with one of the most obviously unfair and criticized tax systems in the nation, ranks 5th in overall business tax climate. According to the authors of the report:
"[Florida is] one of just four states to rank in the top half on all five tax-specific indices. Even Florida's much-maligned property tax system ranks fairly well, scoring 19th out of 50 states. Of course, improvements can be made to any state's tax code... but Florida is in a better position than most states to be content with the tax code it has."
A property tax that ranks "fairly well"? Content with the tax code it has? These assertions should come as a great surprise to anyone familiar with Florida's tax system. As has been documented at length in previous Digest articles, Florida's tax system is both unfair and inadequate.
Multiple rounds of budget cuts have become the norm each year in the state. Oddities with the property tax system have forced neighbors with similar homes to pay vastly different amounts in property tax. And all the while, the rich have been let off the hook despite vast income inequality in Florida.
In large part as a direct result of some of the abovementioned flaws with its tax code, a number of problems are immediately visible in Florida's quality of life. According to the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy, Florida ranks:
- 50th in per capita funding for higher education
- 49th in all education funding per capita
- 41st in state health rankings
- 49th in percent covered by health insurance
- 46th in Medicaid spending per child
- 2nd highest in percentage of uninsured children
- 48th in progressiveness of major state & local taxes
It's hard to imagine unhealthy and poorly educated workers being good for the state's "business climate". A tax system that fails to adequately fund these services should not be ranked among the best in the nation for business. In reality, Florida has an even longer and tougher road to travel than most states before it should be "content with the tax code it has".