College of Social Sciences

Press Release - Tougher Choices: Shaping Florida's Future

February 20, 2014
Contact: Lindsay Potvin
(850) 222-3767

LeRoy Collins Institute report warns of tougher choices ahead for Florida
- New research report updates findings and analysis on issues facing the state, finds need for stronger leadership and engaged citizens to improve Florida -

Tallahassee, Fla. – Florida State University’s LeRoy Collins Institute (LCI) released today a new research report, Tougher Choices: Shaping Florida’s Future, which examines the past and predicts the future in state revenues, demographics, the Florida Retirement System, K-12 education, higher education and infrastructure. The report, which is authored by economists from the Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR) at the University of Florida, is an update of the Tough Choices series of reports that have been released by LCI since 2005.

Tougher Choices revisits the findings of the original Tough Choices report concluding that Florida is not on course to realize its true economic potential. While the outlook is unsettling, Tougher Choices homes in on the “tough decisions” Florida’s leaders and citizens can make to put the state on the right path.

“Almost 10 years ago, the LeRoy Collins Institute published Tough Choices: Shaping Florida’s Future, which analyzed Florida’s revenue and spending trends and found that, while Florida certainly has boundless economic potential, there were tough decisions to be made to achieve that potential,” said Dr. Carol Weissert, LCI Director and political science professor at Florida State University. “This report, Tougher Choices, revisits these concerns and, unfortunately, finds that Florida has made little progress in addressing the key issues outlined in our initial report. We hope this new report will help to further illustrate the challenges facing the state and inspire appropriate reforms.”

The report’s eight chapters re-examine Florida’s past and future economic state and draw conclusions that can be used to create positive action in the areas of education, health care, infrastructure, retirement and more. Key findings include:
• Florida’s education system is struggling across the spectrum – from K-12 through higher education. Funding for the state’s public schools is lagging, and Florida’s high school graduates are becoming less likely to earn a college degree than their peers in other states.
• Florida’s reliance on retirees and tourists comes at a price as the demands of older residents and vacationers are disproportionately linked to lower-paid service jobs. To make matters worse, growing Medicaid demands due to Baby Boomer retirements and labor market polarization will likely lead to greater expenditures for the state in the near future.
• Florida’s transportation congestion is among the worst in the country, especially in urban areas. The state continues to lack an appropriate amount of roads for its growing population, which is only compounded by its aging infrastructure and overcrowded highways.

“Twenty-five years ago Florida was closing in on building a diversified economy that could attract high-skill jobs, and modest continued investment might have gotten us there. Now, we have fallen far behind, and the investment needed to close the gap is huge,” said Jim Dewey, a co-author of the report and Director of Economic Analysis for BEBR. “Providing great vacations and comfortable golden years for retirees can provide a happy enough life for many Floridians. But, we could have done better. Perhaps we still can, but the cost will be much higher. We hope this report helps Floridians and their leaders make informed decisions that move the state in a positive direction.”

Through the release of Tougher Choices, LCI seeks to encourage public conversation on the future of the state and policies that can help it live up to its potential.

"Though recovery from the Great Recession is near at last, Florida now faces even tougher challenges than in 2005,” said David Denslow, a co-author of the report and a Research Economist at BEBR. “By highlighting structural trends and data-driven interpretative comparisons with other states, the LeRoy Collins Institute will help citizens make their own judgments about how their state can meet these challenges and what direction it should choose."

A full copy of the report can be viewed here: For more information about this report and others published by the LeRoy Collins Institute, please visit
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