Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Perry and White twirl with the Texas Truth-O-Meter

With Nov. 2 growing close, truth takes a beating sometimes in candidate ads
With Nov. 2 growing close, truth takes a beating sometimes in candidate ads

Since PolitiFact Texas debuted in January, we've evaluated 69 statements by Gov. Rick Perry or his Democratic challenger, Bill White.

The Truth-O-Meter's latest fact-checks cover Perry's statement that his track record is one of no tax increases — a claim we rated False — and White's statement that state troopers have had standing orders not to ask anyone's immigration status unless they're under arrest, which we rated Half True. (To see every statement we've tested involving Perry, go here. For every statement per White, go here.)

With Election Day looming, we're recapping a few True, False and Pants on Fire statements by each hopeful.

Perry often touts the state's economy. And we've rated two of Perry's economy-related statements True: More Texans have new jobs today than the population of Fort Worth and in Perry's years as governor, Texas has seen net job gains of more than 850,000, more than all the other states combined.

Also, Perry wasn't blustering when he said Texas has installed more wind power than any other state, and all but four countries.

For his part, White correctly said that most of Perry's chiefs of staff have been lobbyists. He also earned a True rating for his statement that by the end of 2010, taxpayers will have paid more than $360,000 for Perry's years of living in a rental home in suburban Austin while the arson-damaged Governor's Mansion undergoes repairs.

Also True from White: Statements that a record number of Texans are unemployed, that the state's debt has almost doubled in Perry's time as governor and that the state's high-school graduation rate places it 43rd among the 50 states.

The box score: Out of more than 40 Perry statements tested to date, we found 23 percent True or Mostly True. Out of more than 25 White statements, 50 percent were True or Mostly True.

Each candidate also has uttered statements rated False.

Perry said that an the estimated $18 billion budget shortfall that Texas will face next legislative session is "a number that somebody just reached up in the air and grabbed." We concluded that's False after noting that experts, including a top analyst for the Legislative Budget Board, have backed up such a forecast.

We also rated False Perry's statement that White didn't pay taxes in 1995 when he was deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy.

White told delegates to the Texas Democratic Party's state convention that Perry had earlier threatened to secede from the United States. We found that False; White, as well as critics and comedians, stretched when they framed Perry's April 2009 secession comment as a threat.

Among Perry statements en fuego: His claim that White was refusing to debate (in reality, Perry refused to debate until White released more tax returns). We also smelled smoke when Perry said he'd never received a call from the Barack Obama White House (his schedule revealed a recent call) and when he said his "border security efforts have led to a 60 percent decrease in border crime," a statement that overlooked major Texas-Mexico border cities including El Paso, Laredo and Brownsville.

Thrice, White statements made ridiculous claims we rated Pants on Fire. Presuming Perry's public schedule reflects all his working hours — and overlooking state university football coaches who are paid millions — White said Perry is far and away the highest-paid state employee on an hourly basis.

Also aflame: White's statements that the state of Texas engages in "Soviet-style budget management" and that over three days one week, Perry flew to five cities at taxpayers' expense, holding press conferences, delivering more than $2.3 million in checks. White nailed the number of visited cities, the press events and the monetary awards. But his crucial assumption — that the flights were at taxpayers' expense — was off.

All in all, 35 percent of Perry's statements and 23 percent of White's statements were rated False or Pants on Fire.

Ahead: Whoever loses Tuesday could be freed from the Truth-O-Meter. The victor won't be so fortunate.