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Florida Gov. Rick Scott is at the Top of the Class

December 10, 2012 - 6:00pm

It's official. Rick Scott is the best governor in the nation.

Well, OK. It is a tie with the governor of Kansas. But there is no playoff.

That's not my assessment, although I would not dispute the finding. It is according to a ranking of governors by the highly respected Cato Institute.

In its annual Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors, Cato said Scott ended Florida's corporate income tax for thousands of small businesses. He is also moving ahead with cuts to property taxes on business equipment, which are a big hindrance to economic growth.

Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas also is a leader in providing tax relief. Both are Republicans. Only four governors, all Republicans, received A grades.

Gov. Paul LePage cut Maine's top individual tax rate and simplified income tax brackets. His ultimate goal is to phase out the individual income tax and cut the corporate tax rate in half. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett trimmed the state's capital stock and franchise tax and hopes to repeal it by 2014.

Compare them with the Democrat governor of Illinois, ranked the worst by Cato. Pat Quinn championed a $7 billion tax increase. Typically, he doled out special tax relief at the same time to some favored businesses that had threatened to leave the state.

We can be reasonably sure those businesses would not have been heading to California, which is raising taxes willy-nilly, without any curb on its profligate spending. The state is totally controlled by Democrats and several cities are bankrupt. Gov. Jerry Brown was given a D grade. (He must have done extra credit work to avoid an F.)

Cato contrasted the leading governors in the nation with the federal government. Washington, incredibly, is arguing about how much to increase the already record debt it has rolled up in the past four years, and the president is demanding the authority to raise the debt to infinity.

Meanwhile, in the real world, millions of Americans struggle without jobs or prospects, unable to take a $4 million vacation in Hawaii, as the president plans to do while Congress tries to avoid the fiscal cliff, although he would take credit if they succeed.

If they fail, the life savings responsibe people put away while denying themselves necessities will be whittled away with higher tax rates. Thrift is punished and irresponsibility is rewarded. In this looking-glass world, the Red Queen's observation stands: "It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place."

States are supposed to be the laboratories where good public policy is fashioned so that national politicians can emulate them. In today's bizarro world, political leaders seem to select from the worst.

As Cato said, state capitols are the only place where there is real fiscal progress. Maybe the word progressive needs to be redefined.

Lloyd Brown was in the newspaper business nearly 50 years, beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. After retirement he served as speech writer for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

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