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Florida's Pro-Growth Agenda: A Defense of Rick Scott

Pro-growth economic policies – lower taxes, responsible spending and commonsense regulations – always work here at home and abroad in generating prosperity. During the Cold War, President Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher both saved their countries from the brink of economic disaster by pursuing and implementing pro-growth measures through deep tax cuts and reduction in economically burdensome government regulations, which led to thriving economic times.

More recently, several countries in Asia and Latin America and parts of Europe have learned from this and have implemented pro-prosperity policies that are now working, in stark contrast to many of their recession-bound neighbors. One wonders why we don't see more of these policies being implemented here at home. In Florida they are.

Former business executive Rick Scott won election to Florida's governorship on a pro-growth platform and the promise of 700,000 jobs in seven years. He is halfway there in just over two years, proving that these policies work.

On the day he took office, Scott took charge of a state that was, perhaps, in the worst economic shape since the 1930s. The entire country was suffering but Florida was an unholy mess.

Over a million Floridians were out of work and unemployment was at 11.1 percent. The previous four years had seen the state suffer the loss of over 825,000 jobs. Such was the darkening disillusionment in the Sunshine State that, in the year prior to Scott's taking the reins, Florida saw more people leaving the state than moving into it for the first time since World War II.

What Florida got in Scott was a conservative businessman's approach to attacking the problem. He took a great deal of criticism for both scaling back a bloated government that had sunk deeply into debt, and rolling back burdensome regulations that hindered business and job growth. In his first year alone he vetoed $615 million from the state budget, and over his term he has overseen the elimination of more than 2,300 regulations on businesses and residents.

Despite the criticism he has continued undeterred in implementing programs that have borne substantial fruit.

While reducing the size and scope of Florida's government, Scott has cut taxes five times in a little over two years. Few other state leaders in America have been so successful in cutting taxes.

In 2011, his first year in office, Scott cut property taxes for homeowners and businesses by $210.5 million. He also increased the tax exemption for business income from $5,000 to $25,000.

In 2012, Scott then doubled that tax exemption to $50,000. That same year he cut the productivity requirement for the state's manufacturing tax exemption from 10 percent to 5 percent, saving manufacturers an estimated $46 million per year. This year, in the legislative session just concluded, Scott cut taxes again, this time on manufacturing equipment.

Working with a conservative-led legislature in Tallahassee, Scott has actually implemented what many conservatives have advocated for decades.

The results are in: Since Scott took office, almost 350,000 new private sector jobs have been created – halfway to the goal he promised during the 2010 campaign – and the state's unemployment rate has dropped to 7.1 percent. That's down 4 percentage points since he took office. Florida's budget is expected to show its first surplus in six years.

Florida's tourism industry has set records the past two years as 89.3 million visitors came to the state last year, up 2.3 percent from the year before. Florida's housing market has turned around as this past December showed statewide closed sales of existing single-family homes totaled 18,031, up 15.8 percent from December 2011.

ChiefExecutive.net ranks Florida as the second best state for business in America for 2013, and Scott plays that card quite deftly. He has openly campaigned in states with troubled economies, inviting businesses to buy a one-way ticket southbound.

In just the past few months, Northrop Grumman relocated 2,500 jobs from California and New York to Florida, ditto that for Hertz which moved its worldwide headquarters from New Jersey to the Sunshine State along with 700 jobs. Coca-Cola recently announced it's adding 4,100 jobs to the Sunshine State workforce.

One could forgive President Obama if he is a bit jealous and confused when looking at Florida's success. Obama's liberal, big government policies have led to a stagnant national economy with massive job losses and minimal investment as businesses continue to hold trillions of dollars on the sidelines in fear of what this administration is doing to the national economy.

Unlike Scott, Obama's response to the economic problems facing the nation upon taking office were trillions in more deficit spending through his "stimulus," and more taxes and regulation through his signature policy initiative: ObamaCare. The results are 180 degrees from where Scott has brought Florida.

Governor Scott's 2010 campaign slogan was simply "Let's get to work." By any measure he has certainly delivered.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News. Steve Forbes is chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media and two-time candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

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