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Gov. Rick Scott, Florida's CEO in chief, often talks about making cold calls to companies in chilly cities as part of his effort to lure them here and create Florida jobs.
In his second State of the State address, he called out the state of New York by name.
"And I should add, to all of our friends in New York, come on down!" he said in the Jan. 10, 2012, speech, adding an unscripted shout-out to Illinois, too. "Our temperature outdoors is about twice as high as yours, and your (state) tax burden per citizen is about twice as high as ours. Those are good numbers for us."
A clever play on words. But is he right?
The U.S. Census Bureau keeps tabs on state tax collections each year. In 2010, New York's state taxes were $63.5 billion. Florida's state collections were half as low at $31.5 billion.
Scott brought up the state's tax burden per citizen, which represents total tax collections divided by population. In 2010, New York's figure was $3,278, and Florida's was $1,675. State tax collection per capita in New York is very close to double, at about 97 percent more than Florida's, at least in 2010.
By the way, part of the disparity between New York and Florida's tax collections is New York's personal income tax. Florida is one of seven states without one.
Scott is right about the statistic, but the figure doesn't tell the whole story.
For one, his measure does not factor in local taxes. That's important because Florida ranks highest in the country for its reliance on local taxes, which include property taxes. Using this measure, and 2009 figures, New York's tax collections would be about 90 percent more than Florida's, not 97 percent, said Kurt Wenner, Florida TaxWatch vice president of tax research.
There are also different ways economists measure tax burden. Some use the per capita method, as cited by Scott, but others cite what portion of your income goes to pay taxes. That rate was 9.3 percent for state and local taxes in Florida in 2009 and 14.3 percent in New York, according to figures from TaxWatch, a business-backed policy group. The disparity is smaller using this method.
A lower tax burden isn't the only way to measure the state of a state, though. As economists from the New York-based, left-leaning Fiscal Policy Institute pointed out, New York produced the country's second-fastest growth in gross domestic product, or GDP, in 2010. Florida trailed at 40th place. A similar dynamic played out in personal income growth: New York ranked second while Florida ranked 46th, according to a report generated by the Fiscal Policy Institute.
"This raises the question about what relative tax burdens really mean: Does a lower tax burden mean a less dynamic, robust economy?" wrote James Parrott, deputy director and chief economist. "2010 data could suggest that."
There are other factors to consider, too. Unemployment remains higher in Florida (10 percent as of November 2011) than New York (7.9 percent as of November 2011). Wages for the average working family are more in New York than in Florida by about $6,000, according to a 2009 study. And you could argue New Yorkers get more for their tax dollars in areas such as mass transit.
Still, low taxes are attractive to many.
"If people believe that Florida provides services to them that are as good as New York, or at least acceptable, than a lower tax burden could be attractive," said Mark Robyn, Tax Foundation economist.
Scott correctly cites that New York's state tax burden per person is twice as much as it is in Florida, and no doubt this fact could be attractive to businesses thinking of moving to Florida. But businesses likely consider more than just tax burden when thinking of where to locate their businesses, and some states with higher tax rates have more robust economies. Still, if you want to count Florida's positives for business, a low tax burden is surely one of them. We rate this Mostly True.
"The Facts on Florida's Climate," Tax Foundation, accessed Jan. 10, 2012
State Government Tax Collections, U.S. Census Bureau website, accessed Jan. 10, 2012
Email interview with James Parrott, Fiscal Policy Institute deputy director and chief economist, Jan. 10, 2012
Email interview with Frank Mauro, Fiscal Policy Institute executive director, Jan. 10, 2012
Phone interview with Kurt Wenner, Florida TaxWatch vice president of tax research, Jan. 10, 2012
Interview with Lane Wright, Gov. Rick Scott spokesman, Jan. 10, 2012
Gov. Rick Scott's State of the State address, Jan. 10, 2012
"Scott makes pitch to lure Chicago Mercantile Exchange," Tampa Bay Times' The Buzz blog, June 22, 2011
Phone interview with Mark Robyn, Tax Foundation economist, Jan. 10, 2012
"2010 State Tax Collection by Source," Federation of Tax Administrators, accessed Jan. 10, 2011
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