Rush’s praise realized: DeSantis makes Florida a model state

On February 2, 2021, during his final broadcast, Rush Limbaugh praised Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R), saying, “Have I mentioned lately how much I admire the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis? This guy has got what we call an iron-enforced spine.” Limbaugh humorously added that DeSantis was “the closest that we’ve ever had to a graduate of the EIB Limbaugh Institute.”

In Florida, we see the ultimate fulfillment of everything Rush and his followers have desired since the late 1980s. DeSantis’ recent achievements with Florida’s budget and economy are prime examples. Why can’t we have 25 red states run like this, and why isn’t DeSantis the new mandatory minimum standard?

In reality, DeSantis is turning his state into a haven for those seeking ordered liberty and prosperity.

After spending an additional $500 million of state surplus funds to pay down debt, Gov. DeSantis has now reduced 36% of Florida’s existing debt, while cutting numerous taxes and offering pay raises to teachers. “We now have the lowest per capita state debt of any state in these United States,” DeSantis announced at a press conference last month, after vetoing several pork projects from the legislature and trimming almost $1 billion from the annual budget.

DeSantis referred to a Tax Foundation analysis ranking Florida 50th in debt per capita, at just $973 per person. These numbers are from 2022, before he paid off much of this debt, suggesting that the current debt is likely much lower than the next best state.

What is so eerie about DeSantis paying off 36% of Florida’s debt is that over the exact same time frame, the federal government has accrued exactly 36% of its entire outstanding debt just since 2019. The Congressional Budget Office just raised its projection for the fiscal year 2024 annual budget deficits from $1.5 trillion to $1.9 trillion. That’s 6.7% of GDP, which is astounding given the high level of revenue the Treasury is taking in and the lack of an official recession.

Despite Florida’s $17 billion budget surplus for 2024-2025 and numerous tax holidays and toll relief provisions, DeSantis used his line-item veto to cut 450 appropriations worth $854.6 million from the budget initially passed by Republicans in the legislature. Many of these expenditures were from state bureaucracies.

Local media has savaged the governor for cutting state arts funding, but prioritizing police, national guard, and hurricane response is more important. Florida’s focus on taxes and spending has led to the best state economy in the country, with 21.9% GDP growth since 2019, nearly twice the national rate. DeSantis achieved the lowest debt per capita and the second-lowest tax burden in the country.

DeSantis didn’t just cut small-ticket woke priorities or the arts; he achieved significant savings on welfare programs. Casey DeSantis spearheaded Hope Florida, which combined state resources with local charities to help 30,000 people move off food stamps or cash welfare, saving the state hundreds of millions. Instead of handing out welfare checks without follow-up, Hope Florida retooled state welfare agencies to work with private charities in each county, steering people toward long-term private solutions.

DeSantis has saved money on Medicaid while deterring illegal immigration. He signed SB 1718, requiring Medicaid-accepting hospitals to ask patients about their legal status. Politico reports a 54% drop in Medicaid expenditures for Florida’s Emergency Medical Assistance program serving illegals, proving enforcement and deterrence work.

The governor’s policies have also shifted the state’s political culture to the right. Republicans now have an edge in voter registration of nearly 1 million, compared to a slight Democrat edge when DeSantis was elected.

During his first term, some accused DeSantis of focusing on cultural battles against woke policies. However, his legacy shows a greater focus on key economic and quality-of-life issues. Even school behavior and achievement have improved. According to Brevard Public Schools, scores increased with stricter behavioral standards from the Department of Education.

Thanks to the wild success of Florida’s school choice initiatives, public school enrollment in blue areas has plummeted. Private school enrollment has grown by 47,000, and homeschool enrollment has grown by nearly 50,000 since 2019. Over the same time frame, public schools in Broward, Duval, and Miami-Dade counties have enrolled 53,000 fewer students. There are now 49,000 empty classroom seats in Broward County, the state’s liberal bastion, leading to the closure of eight county schools over the next two years.

As longtime liberal Florida publisher Peter Schorsch put it, DeSantis is hell-bent on making the state inhospitable for leftists.

In reality, he is turning the state into a haven for those seeking ordered liberty and prosperity. Today’s leftists are willing to forgo quality of life for their pagan religious beliefs, which are becoming unwelcome in the state.

The only question is why Republicans and conservatives who listened to Rush Limbaugh for years won’t take yes for an answer. Aside from rejecting DeSantis in the presidential election, there is no effort to make his stewardship the minimum expectation in every other red state. Isn’t this mix of policy and electoral success exactly what we’ve been pining for our entire lives? Or perhaps, for some on the right, politics is just bread and circuses.

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