"Rick Scott has destroyed over 100,000 jobs."
Rod Smith on Tuesday, June 28th, 2011 in an e-mail to supporters
Top state Democrat claims job losses, not gains taint Gov. Rick Scott's first year
Florida Democrats are countering Gov. Rick Scott's claims about creating jobs, by saying the first-term governor is in fact killing them.
Since at least April, the Florida Democratic Party has repeated in news releases, in e-mail to supporters, on their website and with social media a particularly appealing fact: Scott has destroyed 100,000 jobs. Here's one example from a mass e-mail June 28, 2011, from the chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, Rod Smith:
"Rick Scott has destroyed over 100,000 jobs, gutted the education budget, and remains completely out-of-touch with Floridians."
We wondered, what's behind that 100,000?
Back in April, Democrats launched a website, www.WhereIsMyFloridaJob.com, to "hold Rick Scott accountable." But when we tried to visit it in June, it showed a single sentence: "Site maintenance in progress."
So we asked Eric Jotkoff, spokesman for the Florida Democrats, to explain how they are getting their numbers.
He explained it was a "pretty conservative estimate" based on expected teacher layoffs, cuts to local police, firefighters and other public employees, cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates, cuts to university spending, the planned privatization of South Florida prisons, the rejection of federal funding for high-speed rail, the shift of funding from a transportation trust fund expected to affect construction projects, a change in how water districts are funded, and Scott's refusal to meet with a biotech company (Jackson Labs) that ultimately didn't locate a new project in the state. Jotkoff also left the door open for other job-killers he wasn't thinking of just then. (At the time we asked, he also included possible death of SunRail — which a few days later the governor actually allowed to move forward.)
To recap: budget cuts, prison privatization, high-speed rail, Jackson Labs.
Rather than a spreadsheet, Democrats say they kept an informal tally that shifts as time passes. In April, the 100,000 was based on the governor's proposed budget. Now that the legislative session has passed, it's based on the state budget as signed by the governor, with a few other actions for good measure.
In any case, it's always been close enough to round up to 100,000, Jotkoff said.
(We did throw his estimates into a spreadsheet, and with SunRail they came close, to around 96,000 jobs. Several items had wiggle-room that could have pushed the number above 100,000.)
But no matter what the estimates say on any given day, the Democrats' claim has several problems:
• "Has destroyed" makes it sound like jobs are already gone — but the analysis is almost entirely based on jobs that are expected to be lost.
• "Has destroyed" also makes it sound like Scott's policies have eliminated 100,000 jobs that already existed. But that's only the case for some of the jobs included in Jotkoff's tally, such as cuts leading to layoffs of state and local employees. Others, from high-speed rail to highway construction to biotech jobs, didn't yet exist — and may never have materialized.
• In the same way it's troublesome for Scott to take credit for job creation, it's also problematic for Democrats to singularly blame Scott for job losses. The Legislature debated and passed the budgets that reduce funding for local districts, and signed off on a reduction to the state workforce. Ultimately, they share some responsibility for those jobs losses as well.
There's one more significant problem with basing this claim on expected changes: Nobody knows how many jobs may actually be shed, much less the Democrats. In at least half the categories Jotkoff gave us, the estimates were "thousands" or "tens of thousands." In some cases (transportation trust fund, Medicaid spending) projections were based on estimates by industry and interest groups. In others (Jackson Labs) the promises of new jobs were so ethereal, local governments weren't even certain they would come to be — yet Jotkoff blamed Scott for the loss of the maximum number of jobs the company thought it might create over 20 years, about 3,000.
Jotkoff told us he was pressed for time to make his case -- though we gave him several days to respond to our questions. Here at PolitiFact Florida, we dare to dream that if you routinely repeat a number for months, you've got the goods to prove it.
It's entirely possible that when the dust settles, Scott — who advocates cutting government jobs to encourage job-creation in the private sector — will have hurt employment in the state by 100,000. But this evidence doesn't prove that. And that's not even what Democrats charged — they said he has already destroyed 100,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the best evidence we do have, survey estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, show the state has actually added 76,800 net jobs since January.
We know that the budget passed by the Legislature and signed by Scott contains real pain for Florida families, in particular teachers and state workers. But Democrats should focus on claims they can prove, and this isn't one of them. We rate it False.