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If You Build it…They Will Move

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Today just might be the day you receive your invitation to respond to the 2020 Census. Now, I don’t think anyone is waiting by his or her mailbox in wild anticipation of a census form, but in this presidential election year, it’s important to realize just how crucial this census could be to future presidential elections.


While we choose a president every four years, we conduct a census only every ten years – and our country has experienced enormous changes in the past decade. As we embark on a new census, congressional reapportionment and electoral votes hang in the balance. Given population growth in states like Florida, the Sunshine State could pick up two more Congressional seats, expanding the state’s influence in Congress. In addition, a possible gain of more electoral votes would make Florida an even more significant prize for the 2024 presidential election. Meanwhile, many high-tax, highly regulated states are projected to show population declines in this census – and therefore reduced influence in future elections.

The Internal Revenue Service recently highlighted a consistent and long-running trend showing the different rates at which states are growing. These statistics should raise alarm bells in certain state legislatures across the country. The 2018 data show the state of Florida netted $16 billion of income growth from state-to-state migration. The next closest was Arizona with growth of $12.5 billion. Not only did the Sunshine State show the highest income growth in 2018, but Florida also attracted more new residents than any other state. And who might have been the biggest loser? Not surprisingly, New York, the “Empire State,” lost more than $10 billion.


About $1 million in income migrates every 30 minutes to Florida. It comes from New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and all the other states that continue to pursue the failed policies of overtax-overspend-overregulate. While high-tax states still can’t figure out why they fail at basic budgeting, we acknowledge a truth known for decades here in Florida– that if you build a low-tax, limited government state with a friendly environment for entrepreneurs, millennials, retirees, and every day folks, they will come. It’s why Florida thrives on a $90 billion state budget while New York flails on $190 billion.

As a seventh-generation Floridian, it is not hard for me to harken back to a time when Florida’s economy was in a seemingly perpetual slump. Sluggish growth, lackluster opportunity, and an economy largely beholden to tourism and agriculture. We turned that ship around through the efforts of fiscally conservative Governors, legislative leaders, and a population that not only made a state income tax unconstitutional, but then followed it up by requiring a super-majority to raise any taxes or fees. The result? A $1 trillion economy and 3.2 percent unemployment, and income growth outpacing the national average.


Thirty years ago in the great movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner showed us that, “If you build it, they will come.” Well, we built Florida to provide the most opportunity for Floridians with lower taxes, limited government and free-market policies. Sure enough, we built it, and millions came. As the country embarks on this census, Florida and other states that built strong economies will become even more influential in the future direction of our country.

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