Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Fact-checks of Gov. Rick Scott cross the 100 mark

Members of the Legislature greet Rick Scott on March 4, 2014, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo)
Members of the Legislature greet Rick Scott on March 4, 2014, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo)

Back in 2010, Rick Scott drew national attention for spending more than $70 million of his own money to win his first elected office as Florida’s governor. Since then, the Republican has become known for serious matters, like his staunch opposition to the federal health law, as well as lighter moments, like when The Daily Show crashed one of his press conferences to make fun of Florida’s effort to drug test welfare recipients.

On March 4, 2014, after Scott gave his fourth State of the State speech, PolitiFact Florida published its 100th and 101st fact-check of Scott. We published one more fact-check from that speech on March 6, bringing the total to 102.

At PolitiFact Florida, we’ve been fact-checking Scott since he entered state politics, shaking up the establishment. We launched PolitiFact Florida about one month before Scott announced his 2010 candidacy and have fact-checked Scott more than any other Florida politician. We’ve also kept track of Scott’s progress on dozens of campaign promises on our Scott-O-Meter.

As Scott faces re-election, the Republican Party has contrasted his record with former Gov. Charlie Crist who announced in November that he will try to regain the seat, this time as a Democrat. (Crist will face former state sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, in a primary.)

We have fact-checked 101 claims by Scott as of March 4 -- about two-thirds had received a Half True, Mostly True or True rating.

Here’s a breakdown of Scott’s record on our Truth-O-Meter:

Here we will re-cap some of our fact-checks on Scott.

Taxes

After he signed the state budget in May 2013, Scott said he had cut taxes 24 times. We gave him a Half True -- the cuts have been aimed mostly at business owners -- not average working people, and there was some double counting.

Jobs

Scott often talks about job growth that happens under his watch and takes credit for it: "The four years before I became governor, the state had lost 825,000 jobs. Unemployment had gone from 3.5 percent to 11.1 percent. We incurred another $5.2 billion, I think, worth of debt," Scott said in December 2012.

Scott got his numbers right but missed the mark for implying the state’s recession was the result of poor handling by Crist. Experts told us Florida’s economy tanked largely as a result of the housing market crisis, which included a tornado of issues over which Crist had little to no control. We rated his claim Half True.

During his first campaign, Scott stated that the "stimulus has not created one private sector job." But we found thousands of Floridians employed because of stimulus-funded programs — not to mention jobs for a company in which Scott owns stock. We rated Scott’s statement Pants on Fire!

As part of his "Let’s Get to Work Days" Scott worked at Nicola’s Donuts in Tampa for a day in 2011 (a career homecoming of sorts for Scott who owned a couple of doughnut shops in Kansas City in the 1970s.) Later, during his State of the State address in 2012, Scott touted his success: "We sold out; more than 240 dozen by 8:30 a.m." By the time Scott left the shop, the number sold was probably about 80 dozen, according to shop workers. (One of our fact-checkers was at the shop that day following Scott.) We rated this claim Mostly False.

Education

When Scott unveiled his education budget proposal in January he said "The $18.8 billion in funding for K-12 education funding is the highest in Florida history and includes a record $10.6 billion in state funds."

He is correct that both the sheer dollar total and the state’s portion are larger than in past years. However, per-pupil spending was higher under Crist. Also, factoring in inflation for the total amount for 2007-08 would make it larger than Scott’s current proposal. We rated Scott’s claim Half True.

We also fact-checked two education claims he made during his 2014 State of the State address. Scott said "Florida high schools are four out of the top 10 in the entire United States." His number is based on a Newsweek ranking that comes with several caveats including that the survey is based on self-reported data from only a fraction of the country’s high schools.  We rated that claim Half True.

Scott also said that "All of Florida's four-year state colleges now offer bachelor's degrees for only $10,000." We found that the schools that make up the state college system have accepted a challenge from Scott to offer $10,000 degrees, but only about half currently do. Also, there are several other caveats as to who can get a cheap degree and in what major. We rated that claim Mostly False.

Health care

Scott, a former health care executive who fought Obamacare, has made several claims about Obamacare or Medicaid. In 2012, Scott told an anecdote that suggested a company with 20 employees could go out of business due to Obamacare. We ruled that claim Pants on Fire! because there are no fines for such small employers.

Attacks on Scott

The key attackers of Scott have been the Florida Democratic Party, liberal groups and now Crist.

Alex Sink, Scott’s Democratic opponent in 2010, said that Scott "was forced to resign as the head of a company that pled guilty to massive amounts of systematic fraud, including 14 felonies, leading to a historic $1.7 billion fine." We rated that claim True. (Sink, Florida’s previous CFO, is now running for Congress in Pinellas County.)

We’ve also fact-checked multiple attacks on Scott that relate to claims about voting.

In August, Crist said made a claim about the state’s noncitizen voter purge in 2012: "Our governor just announced last week he is going to start a purge of voters in Florida. They tried it last year. The secretary of state put together a list of over 100,000 people that they thought were ineligible to vote. Came out there were less than 10. I mean, what a joke. It’s unconscionable what they will do to win these elections."

If Crist’s point was that only a tiny fraction of noncitizens were found on the voter rolls, that’s certainly true. But he’s wrong that the number was less than 10. The best data we could nail down from the state was that there were about 85 noncitizens removed as of August 1, 2012. We rated that claim Mostly False.

Scott-O-Meter

PolitiFact Florida is also keeping track of 57 Scott campaign promises on our Scott-O-Meter. (See all of his promises here.) Scott has earned a Promise Kept or Compromise on about half while the remainder are In the Works, Stalled or, in the case of eight promises, Promise Broken.

Scott quickly kept his promise to forgo the annual $130,000 salary, but he broke a promise to bring an Arizona-style immigration law to Florida. His central promise was to create over 700,000 jobs in seven years, a promise which we have rated In the Works.

Spot a claim in need of fact-checking? Tweet us at #PolitiFactThis or email us at florida@politifact.com