Situated between Saudi Arabia and Mexico, Florida’s economy ranks as the 16th-largest in the world, according to the state’s chief financial officer.
“That’s how big this engine is,” Jeff Atwater told a room full of local business leaders Wednesday.
Atwater, who is also the state fire marshal and a member of the Florida Cabinet, delivered a State of the State of Florida address at the luncheon, which was sponsored by the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, Manatee Chamber of Commerce and Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.
During his more than 40-minute presentation, Atwater highlighted the fact that Florida was the only state after the economic downtown that did not raise taxes or increase debt.
In 2006, Florida’s topline general revenue was $27 billion, which collapsed 23 percent to $21 billion in 2009. Today, that revenue is up to $29 billion.
“One state in the country did neither,” he said. “That would be the state of Florida. The opinion of those who you asked to serve you was the problem on your books was more important than the problem on our books, and if we could be disciplined and create the fastest possible conditions for an economic recovery, that’s the best thing to do for you.”
In preparing for the next economic downturn, this is the moment to think about how to diversify Florida’s economy for the next 30 to 50 years in areas such as life sciences, energy and technology, Atwater said.
“We won’t be ready for the next cycle because it is coming but we should be ready for the cycles in the future,” Atwater said.
As a contrast to Florida’s economy, Atwater discussed the federal government and the fact that national debt is currently 73.7 percent of the gross domestic product.
“It is a significant issue that is growing,” Atwater said of the debt.
Spending on Medicare and Medicaid has increased by 27.9 times and 41.1 times, respectively, since 1965.
“That’s what’s growing,” he said. “(Wednesday night) there is going to be a presidential debate and regrettably this will not be part of the conversation.”