The Top 10 Florida Policies Other States Should Emulate | Opinion

There has never been a better time to live in Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis frequently touts this fact, and under his leadership, the Sunshine State has become brighter still. As someone who moved my own family to Florida 12 years ago, I've witnessed this rise first-hand, and I wish every state would learn from it. If others states did half of what Florida is doing, they would no doubt experience some measure of Florida's seemingly nonstop rise.

So, what makes Florida so family-friendly and so attractive a place to live? Here are the top 10 reasons, from my family's perspective and our own experience. Crucially, virtually all of these reasons can be replicated in other states.

First and foremost: Parents have extraordinary choices on where to send their kids to school—and as a father of four, that matters. Florida is filled with good public schools, good private schools, and good charter schools as well. The state has some of the first school choice laws in the nation, giving families greater ability to pick the school that is right for their children. And with a universal "education savings accounts" bill under consideration in the state legislature, Florida's leadership could soon further extend educational freedom. True, universal school choice is something every state needs for the sake of every family and child.

Second: Florida's higher education system is affordable and accessible, from career training through graduate studies. Public college tuition is capped and the lowest in the country. Bright Futures Scholarships make college nearly free for many, while the Free Seat Program gives veterans free online education for their first class and a permanent discount. And with one of the strongest "students' right to know" laws in the country, families like mine can help our kids figure out which postsecondary programs will provide the best income potential for the least money. Imagine if every state did this.

Third: Florida encourages teenagers to get into the workforce as soon as possible, introducing them to the dignity of work at an earlier age. We're one of just a handful of states that lets teenagers get jobs without first needing permission from their school or the state government. Families, not bureaucrats, should make that decision—a lesson other states would do well to learn. My 16-year-old son is earning $18 an hour as a busser at a local restaurant and learning invaluable life lessons that only work can provide.

Fourth: Florida has made it easy for jobseekers to find work no matter where they live in the state. Instead of letting different cities create different and confusing licensing requirements and fees for jobs, our state ensures the rules are the same for everyone. That's a further draw for families who want to find work without a huge fuss, whether one's vocation is real estate agent or plumber or mechanic.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis waves to the
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis waves to the crowd after speaking about his new book ‘The Courage to Be Free’ in the Air Force One Pavilion at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on March 5, 2023 in Simi Valley, California. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Fifth and Sixth: Florida is tax heaven, both on income taxes and property taxes. The state's complete lack of an income tax is an automatic pay raise for families who move here. And in terms of property taxes, the state limits localities, keeping taxes low and predictable on one's home. It is a shock that more states have not followed suit.

Seventh: Speaking of homeownership, building a new home here is fast and easy. Florida recently enacted a law that dramatically speeds up the local approval process for new home construction. At a time when other states are holding back growth, Florida is having a homebuilding boom. More states should want more homes that encourage more people to move in.

Eighth: Florida makes it easy to work from home. The state recently streamlined the process for starting home-based businesses, giving families far more flexibility to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. Why doesn't every state make pursuing the American Dream as easy as Florida makes it?

Ninth: Florida takes a light touch on regulation. It's one of the few states that requires the legislature to approve the most expensive regulations—and lo and behold, lawmakers routinely shoot down painful bureaucratic mandates. This helps explain why Florida has more business start-ups than any other state. And the state's economy is going gangbuster—with a nearly 10% jump in 2021 alone. This obviously then attracts more families to move in. More states should work to get government out of the way.

Tenth and finally: Florida keeps government small, which helps the state grow bigger. Our budget is half the size of New York's, yet in the 12 years I've lived here, Florida has overtaken the Empire State in both population and workforce. It goes to show: The more you grow government, the more you squeeze your citizens, and the more likely those citizens are to leave for greener pastures—or in this case, sunnier shorelines.

Of course, any list of Florida's best perks must include its incredible weather, amusement parks, and natural beauty (especially its beaches). Alas, that is not something every state can replicate. Yet other states can still enact a bevy of policies that will draw more families and transform their futures. When Gov. DeSantis brags about Florida, other states should see it as a challenge to up their game. Florida is winning, but it doesn't always have to be as unique as it is right now.

Tarren Bragdon is president and CEO of the Foundation for Government Accountability.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.