The Mackinac Center for Public Policy hosted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for a policy roundtable during the governor’s April visit to Michigan. DeSantis, a 2024 presidential candidate, was in the state to discuss his Florida Freedom Blueprint, also appearing at events at Hillsdale College and the Midland County Republican Party.
Mackinac Center President Joseph Lehman moderated a discussion at our Midland headquarters with some of our staff, board members and supporters, as well as about a dozen state lawmakers.
“We were proud to welcome Gov. Ron DeSantis to the Mackinac Center headquarters,” Lehman said. “The governor has been a leader on school choice, labor rights and emergency management during COVID. We work with lawmakers and learn from good governance in other states, as the Founding Fathers intended.”
Florida and Michigan have widely diverged in recent public policy decisions. While Michigan repealed its right-to-work law, Florida strengthened its own law, reaffirming workers’ right to join or not to join a labor union. The Sunshine State also requires each union in a workplace to win a majority of votes, in regularly held elections, from those working under the union contract.
Florida has no state income tax, while Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel are working to hike Michigan’s income tax next year. Florida was one of the freest states during the COVID-19 pandemic, while Michigan saw one of the most severe lockdowns in the country. As DeSantis noted at the event, lockdowns did not stop many politicians from leaving their home states and heading to Florida.
Over the past decade, and especially in the years since COVID-19 hit, Florida has grown much more rapidly than Michigan in jobs, income and — especially — population. Michigan has been among the slowest-growing states since the pandemic ended, and our death rate from COVID-19 was higher than Florida’s.
DeSantis follows in the path of other governors who have visited Mackinac Center. John Engler, a Republican, and Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, both came by our headquarters while in office. Former Gov. Rick Snyder came to several events, including our annual gala. Governors from other states have also spoken at Mackinac Center events, including a former Republican governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, and a former Democratic governor of West Virginia, Bob Wise.