FILE - Florida state flag

The Florida state flag flies.

(The Center Square) – Only a state with the motto “Live Free or Die” is freer than the Sunshine State. 

That’s according to the nonprofit CATO Institute’s annual Freedom in the 50 States report, which compares states based on different aspects of autonomy and choice in key policy areas. The report uses hundreds of variables to gauge states on fiscal, regulatory and personal terms.

Overall, Florida came in second to New Hampshire in the 2021 ranking that used 2019 data to compare states.

The CATO Institute bills itself as a libertarian public policy think tank that promotes limited government, free markets and peace.

It highlighted the state’s lack of a personal income tax and warm weather as the pied-pipers of not just well-heeled retirees but also business professionals looking to make the most of their labor.

“Florida does especially well on economic freedom, and even more so on fiscal policy. Indeed, it is our top state on both,” the report said. “Regulatory policy is improved but mediocre compared with the fiscal side.” 

Florida’s freedom metrics lagged due to heavy incarceration rates, onerous occupational licensing requirements, state-level health insurance mandates, and the cost of gun control laws on owners and dealers.

To make the state freer, CATO suggests Florida decentralize taxing and spending powers from counties to municipalities, reform its occupational licensing system to remove barriers of entry into careers, and enact criminal justice reforms. 

While New Hampshire was this year’s freest state, nearby New York came in last.

Regional Editor

Cole Lauterbach is a regional editor for The Center Square covering Arizona, California, and Nevada. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.