My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

The Florida Cabinet recently ventured out of Tallahassee to host our latest meeting in a city of great importance to our state and to me personally—St. Augustine.
CFO Atwater with the St. Augustine lion statue
This week, St. Augustine celebrates the 450th anniversary of its establishment in 1565. Years before the landing at Plymouth Rock or the colonization of Jamestown, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed on St. Augustine’s shore, making it the nation’s oldest permanently occupied European settlement.

St. Augustine is a city of firsts. In addition to being the first lasting European settlement, the city was the host of the first Christian mass in the Americas, the site of the first port to develop into a center of trans-Atlantic trade and commerce, and it was an early leader in city planning with the first European town plans.

The city was also the site of a few family firsts as well. My mother is from Jacksonville, and my father was a St. Augustine native. They met in 1940 at a local school known as St. Joseph’s Academy and the rest is history. My parents brought us back to the city each summer, and it will always hold special meaning to me. I recall the 400th anniversary celebration as a child, and it was an honor to be back in this historic city to celebrate once again.

The city has grown by leaps and bounds during the last 50 years, and I had the pleasure of visiting a few of the local businesses who have chosen to call Florida’s First Coast home. They’re paving the way in a variety of industries such as alternative power generation and construction, and they’re driving our economy forward.

All Floridians should be proud our state’s rich history, as it’s the start of our American story. To learn more about the city’s history and the celebrations happening this week, click here.

Sincerely,

Jeff
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


CFO Atwater Stands Behind States’ Rights to Divest from Terror-Related Organizations

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater on Thursday released the following statement in support of Florida’s right to divest state funds from organizations that are engaged in prohibited business activities with state sponsors of terror. CFO Atwater also sent a letter today to Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli explaining that the pending federal Iran deal could undermine Florida’s existing sanctions against such entities. CFO Atwater urged the legislative leadership to act quickly to defend Florida’s established law on this critical issue.

CFO Atwater said, "The sinister machinery of the Iranian regime is not news to Floridians. In fact, Florida was a leader—the first in the nation—to pass a law requiring divestment of public funds from companies that do business with Iran. This bipartisan effort passed both houses of Florida’s legislature unanimously. Since the law’s passage, our State Board of Administration has divested more than $1.1 billion from companies involved with Iran, and 30 states now have similar measures that keep public money from funding terrorism.

"A state can invest funds—or not invest funds—where it chooses. It is a matter of states’ rights. Absent a treaty, which the pending federal Iran deal is not, the federal government cannot force states to do business, either directly or indirectly, with regimes that fund terrorism and systematically abuse human rights. Secretary of State John Kerry admitted as much in his recent remarks to Congress. Further, the agreement itself exposes this administration’s plans to use ‘all available authorities’ to force states to follow them down this reckless path.

"What’s more, in the very text of its agreement with Iran, this administration, with disturbing clarity, memorialized its commitment to induce states into abandoning their anti-terrorism policies.

"Our federal government may choose to open wide the spigot of American dollars to the world’s most vigorous supporter of terror. But we, the American people and its sovereign states, do not have to do the same. Floridians should remain proud of the trailblazing reforms we enacted to repudiate terrorism and endorse the goal of eliminating the funding that makes it possible. We stand firm on the founding principle of federalism and the states’ rights that accompany it.

"As it stands, Florida laws allow the President or Congress to void our divestment policy. At the time of enactment, this seemed prudent. But at that time, we could not have dreamed that our country’s leadership would enter into an agreement at odds with the sentiments of most Americans and engage with a state that openly sponsors terror, holds American hostages, threatens the stability of an entire region, seeks to eradicate Israel from the face of the earth, and whose leaders presently call for ‘Death to America.’ But that is the reality we live in today.

"In 2007, I co-sponsored Florida’s Iran divestment bill (SB 2142), and I continue to believe we must use any and all means available to defend against whatever steps may be taken to undermine our state’s policy decisions. One person should not have the power to undo the policies of a state of 20 million people. For that reason, it is imperative that Florida lead the charge—just as we did in establishing our sanctions—to shield states from the federal government’s attacks on our sound and bipartisan policy against funding terror."

Read a copy of the CFO’s letter to President Gardiner and Speaker Crisafulli.

Save Today and Retire Tomorrow

Do you know how much money you will need to peacefully retire? If you’re not certain, don’t fret; you are not alone. A recent survey indicates that 1 in 3 working and retired Florida residents lack the basic knowledge of investing and saving for retirement. Save Today and Retire Tomorrow

Retirement is a life event you should look forward to and feel financially prepared for as the next phase in your life. When you think of retirement, your first logical question might be, "where do I begin?" You should start by saving and now is the perfect time to begin.

I encourage you to visit the Save Today and Retire Tomorrow (S.T.A.R.T.) website, a tool to help Florida’s consumers evaluate their retirement plans and set their future financial goals. The site, which is a part of our main financial education initiative, Your Money Matter$, features the following resources:

  • Retirement Products – Review the most common products available for financial planning such as Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), 401(k) plans and more.
  • Podcasts – Short audio clips to assist with retirement planning.
  • Retirement Term Glossary – Retirement terminology can be intimidating. Browse the glossary to better understand the most commonly-used key terms in retirement and finances.
  • Calculators – Deciding on how much to save can be tricky. Use our financial calculators to help you choose the right amount.

Save yourself from unnecessary stress by building a financial plan that will secure a financially sound future. The most important step is getting started, even it’s putting away a few dollars a week.

For additional retirement planning resources, please visit the Save Today and Retire Tomorrow (S.T.A.R.T.) website.

Florida Believes in Business

Best States for Business

Florida’s stable economic growth over the last few years has been a result of the stalwart commitment to allow businesses to thrive and succeed. This pledge has kept Florida as one of the top states in the nation for business according to Chief Executive Magazine’s “2015 Best and Worst States for Business” survey. The 2015 survey polled more than 500 CEOs across the country, ranking Florida second just behind Texas for the fourth year in a row. Additionally, Illinois, New York and California have consistently ranked as the three most unfriendly states in the nation for business multiple years in a row, a stark reminder of impact that poor governance has on a state’s business environment.

Read more about business in Florida in the summer edition of Florida's Bottom Line, CFO Atwater’s quarterly economic magazine. The summer issue focuses on Florida's international trade, one of the most important elements of Florida’s economy as it embodies the global success of businesses across the state.

In addition, Florida's Bottom Line website keeps you up-to-date on Florida's economy and finances in between quarterly editions. Past editions, special reports, infographics and news archives reflect the recent flow of Florida facts and economic attitudes.

Florida Economic Briefs

National unemployment rate down in August
The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent in August, 0.2 percentage points lower than last month (5.3 percent) and 1.0 percentage point lower than August of last year (6.1 percent). Job gains occurred in health care, social assistance, and financial activities. Florida’s unemployment rate for August will be released September 18.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Small business optimism increases in August
Small business optimism grew last month according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business. Of the ten components that make up the index, five of them increased over the month, three decreased, and two remained unchanged.
Source: National Federation of Independent Business