Fact-checking Gov. Rick Scott’s 2015 inauguration speech

Florida Gov. Rick Scott waves after the swearing in for his second term at the Florida state capitol, Jan. 6, 2015. (AP Photo)
Florida Gov. Rick Scott waves after the swearing in for his second term at the Florida state capitol, Jan. 6, 2015. (AP Photo)

After being sworn in for a second term, Gov. Rick Scott emphasized his vision of Florida as a place overflowing with jobs and tax cuts that lure residents from other states.

"You have heard me constantly talk about jobs since 2010, when I got into the race. I promise you I’m not going to stop," he said. "I’ll be working to make sure Florida’s the place where you can get a job and you can have a great opportunity until the last day I serve as your governor."

Scott’s Jan. 6 speech coincided with a major news development in Florida: the start of gay marriage -- including at the Leon County clerk’s office just blocks away from the state Capitol. Scott made no mention of that topic during his speech.

Since 2010, we have fact-checked Scott more than any other Florida politician: 125 times. (Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio comes in a distant second with 79 fact-checks.) We’ve rated 11 percent of Scott’s statement True; 24 percent Mostly True; 25 percent Half True; 18 percent Mostly False; 17 percent False and 5 percent Pants on Fire.

Scott made some familiar claims in his speech about job growth, tax cuts and education spending. Here, we’ll review how we’ve previously rated similar statements.

Jobs and taxes

Scott touted his jobs creation goal from 2010:

"Four years ago … we set an ambitious goal of 700,000 jobs over seven years. Today, I’m proud to announce that Florida businesses have in fact created more than 700,000 jobs in less than four years."

But that’s not actually what Scott promised.

During the 2010 campaign, economists said Florida would add 1 million jobs anyway as the state rebounded from the Great Recession. Scott promised the 700,000 would be in addition to that growth. But he denied saying it after being elected, despite his answer being recorded and widely reported. PolitiFact Florida, however, is holding him to that 1.7 million number because that’s what he promised on the campaign trail. We have rated Scott’s promise as In the Works on our Scott-O-Meter, a database of Scott’s 2010 and 2014 campaign promises.

Scott repeated his commitment to lower taxes, saying, "In the next four years, we are going to build on our legacy of cutting taxes more than 40 times," he said.

Scott said in May that he had "cut taxes 40 times for Florida families." These tax cuts ranged from credits to exemptions to changing rates and penalties. The list is full of caveats, including that some were counted more than once, while some were only changes to scheduled increases. Also, most of the tax cuts went to businesses, not individuals. We rated that claim Half True.

Education spending

Scott talked about his promise to boost K-12 per-pupil spending: "Now, we know the workers of tomorrow are in our classrooms today -- and that is why this year we’ll have the highest per-pupil funding for K-12 education in the history of the state of Florida."

In August 2014, Scott proposed a budget for 2015 that would include $7,176 in per-pupil spending. His goal was to beat the record of his opponent at the time, Democrat Charlie Crist, who had overseen the high mark for per-pupil spending of $7,126 in 2007 before the recession hit. If we factor in inflation, Crist would still hold the record.

Overall student enrollment has grown during Scott’s tenure, so it’s not a surprise that the total budget would grow, too. The schools’ full-time-equivalent student body grew by about 68,000 between 2011-12 and 2014-15.

When Republicans claimed last year that under Scott, there has been a "historic $20 billion in funds for education," we rated that Half True.

Scott-O-Meter

Scott talked about several promises that we are tracking on our Scott-O-Meter. We will track 20 promises from his second term -- we tracked 57 in his first term. During his first campaign, Scott made several promises to appeal to conservatives on hot-button topics including drug testing welfare recipients, fighting against Obamacare and immigration amnesty. However, in his second campaign, he focused more on more broad-based issues such as education, spending and taxes.

Scott mentioned his promise to raise K-12 per pupil spending, eliminate the sales tax on manufacturing equipment, invest $1 billion in Florida waters and spend $25 billion on roads. If the Legislature takes action on these proposals, we’ll soon be rating them on the Scott-O-Meter.

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