Greg Abbott's True/Mostly True 'State of State' claims
Greg Abbott’s first State of the State address included two claims we’ve found factually strong -- plus statements about job gains, education and state workers in Texas, California and Illinois that we haven’t tackled.
"Let me start," Abbott said, by recognizing "the first Hispanic First Lady in the history of this state – my wonderful wife, Cecilia." We’ve rated this historic declaration True. Cecilia Abbott has Hispanic roots through her mother and grandmother.
Abbott saluted the state’s economy, saying that "in 2014 we literally outdid ourselves. Last year, Texas created more jobs than in any other year in the history of this great state." Jobs data sourced for us by Austin American-Statesman reporter Dan Zehr indicate that in December 2014, Texas had nearly 458,000 more jobs than existed 12 months before. Since 1991, the next-closest year-end difference was 370,700 in 1997, according to the information from the Texas Workforce Commission.
Abbott also said: "Last week, our" state "comptroller, Glenn Hegar, reported that sales tax revenue in January increased by about 11 percent, surging to an all-time record. It’s the 58th consecutive month of year-over-year sales tax growth." Texas has experienced year-to-year growth in sales tax revenue every month since April 2010, Hegar’s office told us.
Abbott reaffirmed his campaign promise to make Texas No. 1 in education, adding: "We’ve seen that we can do it. In Dallas, for example, African-American and Hispanic students pass AP exams at a higher rate than any other place in America." We don’t know if this is so. But KERA, the Dallas public radio station, said as much in a recent news story.
Abbott continued: "In the Rio Grande Valley, I visited the IDEA Weslaco charter school, where about 99 percent of their high school seniors go on to college." Mostly True, we found, but the 99 percent figure doesn’t account for any of perhaps 50 IDEA students who left its schools without graduating from 2007 through 2012.
Before vowing to cut his office’s budget, Abbott said: "Now many of us in this room including myself have ridiculed states like California and Illinois as bastions of failed big government. You’ll be as surprised as I was to learn that Texas has more full-time state employees per capita than California and Illinois."
We asked Abbott about the basis of this comparison and didn’t draw a quick answer.
Separately, Cheryl Abbot, a Dallas-based economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said by email the bureau doesn’t break down its counts of government workers by full- or part-time status. But according to the bureau, there were nearly 373,000 Texas state government workers in December 2014 while California and Illinois had about 502,000 and 156,000 state employees, respectively. We adjusted these figures for each state’s population to reach an estimate that Texas had 14 state workers per 1,000 residents. California had 13 state workers per 1,000 residents, and Illinois had 12 per thou'.
We plan to keep looking into this statement.