Elections are over and there are new sheriffs in town. For over a decade our leaders have fallen short of making tough decisions to chart our state on a new course. As a State, we have made some commendable moves in the right direction. However, the time of half measures and equivocation has ended. For far too long we have engaged in the most dangerous type of democracy; the democracy of indecision. As voters we say we value education. We seem to understand that an enhanced educational system is important to long term economic development. Yet compared to other States, we rank 49th in per pupil spending. Although throwing money at the issue won't completely solve the problem, we must choose to invest in our students and find ways to deliver education discernibly better. If we don't make a conscious choice, we inadvertently allow public education to passively embrace its fate, whatever that fate may be.
Embedded in the education dichotomy is the riddle of teacher accountability. We can view, treat, and pay teachers like professionals; holding them to pre-established measurable or we can continue to marginalize the importance of their profession and treat them like babysitters, in place to watch our children while we live our lives. But we cannot treat them like babysitters, pay them like migrant workers and hold them accountable for our children's educational development. Babysitters watch your children and make sure they don't fall down the stairs; they make sure they eat and use the bathroom; babysitters do important things, but they don't teach them trigonometry or science; they don't teach them to compose music or essays. They just watch, care and monitor them. We need to make up our minds; we can't have it both ways.
Likewise, we need to decide what we want our economy to look like. Do we want to continue our perennial role as one of the Country's best tourist driven economies or do we want to deepen our harbors, broaden our rail capacity, improve our transportation corridors and diversify our industrial portfolio from tourism and agriculture to manufacturing and as an expanded gateway to the Americas. Our leaders need to choose with a great understanding of the facts not partisan politics. Florida's corporate tax rate is a flat 5.5% on all corporate income and ranks 39th lowest in the nation. With this low rate, Florida should be experiencing a high influx of Fortune500 companies locating to our state and creating an additional economic engine in Florida. However this is not the case, as Florida is home to only 16 Fortune 500 companies. Florida ranks in the mid 30's in corporate tax collections per capita. As the 4th largest state in the nation, these facts do not speak well for Florida and for a state in need of revenue enhancements. We need to stop pretending that we have no choices with respect to corporate income taxes and work to create additional revenue for our state.
Let's stop pretending we don't do gambling in our State, because we do. The "cruises to nowhere" and the Seminole Indian Reservations are pretty much full fledge casino's. Either decide to be a gambling state and collect obscene tax dollars from being that or decide not to do it at all.
The only mistake that we can make is not making a whole hearted, full throttled choice. The time has come for us to say with a reaffirming tone who we are. If we are still the world's innovators, then we should say so, loudly. If we are the generation that will build on the foundation laid by our forefathers, then we should say so, clearly. If we are still a people that refuse to melt slowly into ordinary, then we should say so, profoundly. Whether or not we chose to say any of these things will not be our undoing. Our undoing will be saying all of those things in their inverse. Our undoing will be our failure to choose, one way or the other. A Picasso or finger painting? Football or Frisbee? Steak or fish? Chocolate or vanilla? As Floridians, we need to choose what kind of state we want for our kids and grandkids. To our newly elected leaders, if you won't make the tough choices for your children, as a new father I implore you to do it for mine.