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Bush’s boasting about Florida only tells half the story
Joshua Gillin
By Joshua Gillin September 11, 2015

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is hoping to sell voters on the idea that his time in Tallahassee means sound policy in the White House.

"As governor, I cut taxes, cut spending, balanced budgets, and Florida led the nation in job creation," he said in a campaign ad released Sept. 8, 2015. Bush boasted that his "proven conservative record" during his two terms makes him more qualified than other GOP candidates.

PolitiFact Florida has examined many of the ad’s claims before, so let’s shed some light on Bush’s time leading the Sunshine State.

‘Cut taxes’

Bush has often repeated the claim that he cut taxes $19 billion while in office.

We found he was citing a projection from his Right To Rise PAC measuring cumulative revenue changes from 1999 to 2007. The total of $19.3 billion is adjusted into 2007 dollars.

The analysis includes the federal repeal of the estate tax, for which economists told us Bush couldn’t really take credit. It also includes a big cut to the state’s intangibles tax, which may not benefit your average person very much. (Intangibles include things like stocks, bonds and accounts receivable.)

Experts said there are limits to how economists can estimate the impact of legislative actions, but the projections could be considered fair. What’s trickier is whether Bush can take credit for all the revenue changes or even call them all tax cuts.

The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details. We rated it Half True.

‘Cut spending’

The commercial says "Bush cut spending the most" onscreen, citing a Fox News report from Aug. 28, 2015. We’ve looked at this talking point before, and found this to also be a somewhat selective reading of his record.

Fox’s data comes from a report from the National Association of State Budget Officers about state spending that compared Bush with other GOP governors running for president. The network tallied up the general fund and other state funds, then adjusted the numbers for inflation and population. It showed Bush did cut spending the most.

Experts told us that while the method Fox News used could be considered fair, it has limitations and is not the only way to carve up the data.

The association’s numbers are self-reported by the budget offices of each state, which may affect the quality of the data. The numbers also reflect spending that’s not supported by taxes, such as higher education spending supported by tuition. And the governors all served at different times, which means they all faced different economic conditions.

Bush’s claim is partially true but leaves out context. We rated it Half True.

‘Balanced budgets’

Bush says in his video that he balanced the budget eight times in his eight years. That’s true, but that’s not some major accomplishment unique to Bush.

The state Constitution requires the governor to submit a balanced budget proposal, and requires the Legislature to pass a balanced final budget. In fact, it’s the only thing the Constitution says the Legislature must do each year.

The vast majority of states stipulate in some way that there must be a balanced budget each year. This is very different than the federal budget process over which Bush hopes to hold sway.

Bush has said over and over on the campaign trail that he was fond of his line-item veto power as governor, something he wouldn’t be able to use in the Oval Office. But his vetoes did not balance already balanced budgets; they only stripped appropriations for specific projects.

‘Job creation’

Finally, Bush said Florida created more jobs than any other state while he was governor.

This is true if you parse the numbers the way his campaign did, looking only at total job growth over the last seven years of his eight-year tenure with 1.1 million total new jobs. If you add in his first year, however, Florida drops to second behind California.

But there are plenty of caveats to the talking point, including the prevalence of low-paying jobs that Bush policies didn’t necessarily create. Many of those jobs evaporated after the housing bubble burst. A more level way to measure jobs would have been to look at the growth rate, which put Florida fifth in the country while Bush was in office.

There are many angles to explore in jobs data, and Bush’s view only tells part of the story. We rated his statement Half True.

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Bush’s boasting about Florida only tells half the story