Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Fact-checking Gov. Rick Scott's 'State of the State'

Rick Scott delivers the "State of the State" address on March 5, 2013. (AP Photo)
Rick Scott delivers the "State of the State" address on March 5, 2013. (AP Photo)

Gov. Rick Scott touted Florida's improving economy and his wish list for the upcoming legislative session during his third State of the State speech before the Florida Legislature on Tuesday.

Scott's speech hit his favorite talking points, both old and new. This year, Scott's hoping for a tax break for manufacturers and pay increases for school teachers.

Meanwhile, Democrats released an attack on Scott through a "pre-buttal," a memo released ahead of Scott's speech that criticized his for slashing the state workforce and cutting funding for education.

In making their specific arguments, though, we found both teams flubbed some of facts.

• Scott blamed state government's taxing and borrowing for the bad state of the economy when he became governor two years ago. "Now is not the time to turn back to the legacy of taxing and borrowing that crippled the economy we inherited two years ago," he said.

Economists across the board said this was nonsense. Florida's economy was hurt by the housing crisis and the national financial crisis, not taxing and borrowing from state government. We rated his statement False.

• Scott repeated the claim that his proposed education budget "is the highest state funding level in Florida history." That sounds like Florida students are getting more money than ever, but they're not. Scott's counting only the money that state government contributes, not federal or local funding. When you look at the big picture, education funding in Florida falls short of an all-time high. We rated his statement Half True.

•The Florida Democratic Party said that Scott's record on education is terrible, and that he doesn't consider education a "core function" of the state. We looked for statements where Scott would have said that and came up empty. We rated the Democrats' statement False.

• The Florida Democratic Party claimed that Scott had axed more public sector jobs than had been created in the private sector in 2012. We checked the numbers and found that was totally wrong; the Democrats had only counted part of the year. We rated their statement Pants on Fire.

• Scott called for helping the poor by increasing funds to help people with disabilities. "For the first time in eight years, our budget also increases funding for persons with disabilities by $36 million to help more disabled people receive community-based services, and $2.5 million for job training." We found that Scott was right on his numbers, but the money will get only about 750 people off a waiting list of 22,000. We rated his statement Mostly True.