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Florida, California governors feud over jobs, climate change

Just after Florida Gov. Rick Scott infuriated California Gov. Jerry Brown last week by trying to talk Golden State companies into relocating to Florida, Miami Beach's mayor bought radio ads in California that undercut his own governor's message. 

The mayor will follow up by introducing legislation this coming Wednesday to raise Miami's minimum wage.

Scott had blown into California like a tropical storm, telling Golden State companies that Florida is a low-tax, business-friendly paradise.

Scott, a Republican, reported on Twitter that he had met with officials from Google as part of his three-day trade mission to California. His theme was that Brown had orchestrated tax-and-spend economic policies, including a boost in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, that have soured the state's business climate.

But Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine purchased radio ads in major California markets in the wake of Scott's trip that stressed the positive value of minimum wage hikes — like the one he plans to introduce in his city on Wednesday.

"I want the people of California to know that Miami Beach is about to vote on a historic measure: a living wage for all its residents, one that allows them to not only work here but live here," Levine said in his radio ads.

The ads run directly counter to Gov. Scott's message. After returning to the Sunshine state, Scott noted that in 2012, Univision, the Spanish-language television network, decided to expand its operations in Florida rather than California, New York or Texas. Since then, the governor said, Univision's Newport operation has added 350 jobs to the local economy.

“Our goal is to create the California-to-Florida jobs pipeline,” Scott stated in April.

During an appearance at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference in Beverly Hills last week, Scott stressed that, “My job is to get jobs for Florida families.” He then ticked off a list of economic progress points that Florida offers, including lower taxes, no income tax, a 5.5-percent corporate income tax and streamlined permitting, as well as a state economy that has added nearly 1.1 million jobs in the past five years and three months.

One flashpoint during Scott’s visit involves radio ads funded by Enterprise Florida alleging that California will lose 700,000 jobs in the coming years as a result of its decision to gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The website Politifact Florida, which investigates the veracity of political statements, concluded the 700,000 figure was “mostly false” because it actually describes the number of jobs the state might have added through 2026 had it not moved to increase the minimum wage.

In that sense, the number was not describing a loss of existing jobs, the website said.

Brown, a Democrat, shot back in a letter last week, “Rick, a fact you’d like to ignore: California is the seventh-largest economic power in the world. We’re competing with nations like Brazil and France, not states like Florida.”

Brook Taylor, a spokesman for the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, offered an upbeat perspective on the state's economy. He told AMI Newswire that, in 2015, California created more jobs than Florida and Texas combined and has been leading the nation in job creation.

“I can tell you that Governor Scott has not been able to point to any examples of businesses leaving California for Florida as a result of his so-called trade missions,” Taylor said. “However, there are examples of businesses relocating from Florida to California.”

He cited the case of technology firm Flippbox, which moved from California to Florida in 2012 but announced earlier this year that it would be relocating to the Sacramento area. Taylor said the company’s return was caused in part by an inadequate business infrastructure in Florida.

Flippbox founder and Chief Executive Officer Randy Hucks said in a prepared statement in January, “It is difficult to replicate the caliber of talent, the infrastructure or the lifestyle that California provides.” He added, “Adequate light rail in particular is something Florida couldn’t offer.”

Taylor also mentioned the case of the Florida-based virtual reality company Magic Leap, which is now set to bring 141 jobs to the Golden State after the California Governor’s Office dangled a $3.3-million tax credit.

Brown also steered the debate with Scott over to climate change and a report by Riskybusiness.org claiming that Florida, more than any other state, would be at risk from rising sea levels and storm surges inundating private coastal land during future decades.

“So, while you’re enjoying a stroll on one of California’s beautiful beaches this week, don’t stick your head in the stand,” Brown wrote in his letter to Scott. “Take a few minutes to read the rest of this report. There’s no time to waste.”

Scott attracted criticism last year when the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting reported that his administration had a policy requiring state Department of Environmental Protection employees not to use terms such as “climate change” and “global warming.” Scott later denied there was such a policy.

The governor-versus-governor drama this week caught the attention of political cartoonists and columnists in California. Long Beach Press-Telegram columnist Tim Grobaty equated Scott with a “full-blown stalker” for his attempted raids on California companies. Turning his sights directly on the Sunshine State itself, Grobaty stated, “In the summer it’s utterly uninhabitable, with the humidity surpassing the state’s median IQ.”

In 2013, when then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry purchased radio advertising in California markets to encourage businesses to relocate to Texas, Brown dismissed the effort as “barely a fart” in the California media landscape.