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Dissecting the State of the State with PolitiFact Florida

Gov. Rick Scott greets people before his State of the State address
Tampa Bay Times photo
Gov. Rick Scott greets people before his State of the State address

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off the 2016 legislative session by touting his familiar goals for growing jobs, the economy and education funding. But he also made one over-arching claim: he has "completely turned our economy around." To check on that, WUSF's Steve Newborn talks with Katie Sanders of the PolitiFact Florida team.

There were few surprises in the governor's State of the State address. He touched on his mantra of less government, job and more jobs, and of course, less taxes.

Keep cutting taxes is certainly nothing new from the governor. But there was a lot the governor didn't address. The bill to allow guns on college campuses; the death penalty after the Supreme Court ruled against the way the state conducts those; and precious little on the environment.

But let's do a little fact-checking on the points the governor did bring up. Let's start with the economy. Gov. Scott said "We have completely turned our economy around." 

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

Unemployment rate: In November 2015, the unemployment rate in Florida was 5 percent, the same as the national rate. That’s the lowest Florida’s rate has been since January 2008. November’s rate is still a preliminary figure, but it’s much lower than the 10.7 percent it was in December 2011.

Payroll employment per month:It’s true the state has added jobs. The latest figures show that between December 2010 and November 2015, Florida added 1,011,800 private-sector jobs. But when you subtract the 27,300 government jobs that have been lost in that same span, the net change is 984,500 new jobs. 

Per capita personal income: This statistic refers to how much income was earned per person in the state. The U.S. Commerce Department Bureau of Economic Analysis, which measures income starting midyear, says that in 2009-10, income in Florida grew 2.2 percent. But then that growth slowed down each year. In the last fiscal year data available, 2012-13, that figure dropped by -0.1 percent.

Per capita real GDP: This measures all of the inflation-adjusted economic activity per person in Florida. In 2009-10, per capita real GDP dropped by 1 percent. In 2013-14, the latest year available, it was growing by 1.2 percent. That amounts to $38,664 per person in 2014, about $300 more than it was in 2010. Last year Florida’s per capita real GDP lagged the national average by more than $10,000.

Industrial production: The BLS maintains a national index that measures the value of manufacturing output, compared to a "base" rate of 100, but Moody’s Analytics maintains proprietary estimates for each state. In December 2010, this rate was 96.56 for Florida, and by November 2015 was 105.93, moving ahead but slightly behind the national average.

The big takeaway: Florida’s employment picture has improved, but many of the newly created jobs aren’t necessarily paying very well.

Our ruling

Scott said, "We have completely turned our economy around."

Economic indicators show that some factors, like job growth and unemployment, have reversed losses from previous years. But while there is more economic activity than before, incomes are down and remain below national averages. Experts agree Scott and lawmakers can’t take much credit for changes either way.

We rate the statement Half True.

PolitiFact Florida also fact-checked the rest of the governor's State of the State address. Here's some highlights:


Scott repeated a flashy accomplishment that the state has grown 1 million jobs since he took the reins. Scott will keep bragging about this figure in his nine-city, statewide bus tour called " Million Miles for a Million Jobs."

In his speech, he said, "Thanks to the hard-working people in our state, over 1 million jobs have been created in just five years since I took office."

When he first ran for governor in 2010, Scott promised to create those 700,000 on top of the 1 million jobs state economists predicted Florida would add by 2017, no matter what policies came out of Tallahassee.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that between the end of December 2010 and November 2015, private businesses had added 1,011,800 jobs in Florida. This neglects federal data that shows 27,300 government jobs have been lost since Scott took office. When we factor in those losses, the total jobs picture shows 984,500 net new jobs in five years, a bit less than 1 million.

We have rated his progress In the Works.


The governor also reiterated his commitment to education funding in recent years.

Scott said, "We made a record high investment in our education system so every child can have the opportunity to pursue their American dream."

This is similar to a claim we fact-checked in October from Scott, who said, "We have the highest funding in (the) K-12 system in the history of the state."

The state’s total education budget was at an all-time high of $19.7 billion. But enrollment was also higher than in years past. Per-pupil spending was still below historic dollar totals and remains far below comparable levels when adjusted for inflation. We rated that statement Mostly False.

For this legislative session, Scott has proposed raising per pupil spending to $7,221. That amount is about $116 higher than 2015-16, and would put Scott above the record amount in 2007-08 under his predecessor Gov. Charlie Crist. But it comes with an important caveat: the majority of the extra funding would come through local property taxes — not state coffers.


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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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