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Allison Graves
By Allison Graves November 6, 2017

Did Rick Scott brag about Florida's minimum wage? Philip Levine claim misleads

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine wasted no time attacking current Gov. Rick Scott as he jumped into the 2018 governor’s race.

In a Nov. 1, 2017, speech announcing his run, Levine, a Democrat, criticized the governor for being so proud of the state’s minimum wage that he’s advertising it.

"When workers are paid $8.10 an hour, and our current governor runs ads bragging about it — it’s callous and it’s wrong," Levine said.

Florida’s minimum wage is $8.10 and will rise 15 cents in January 2018.

Has Scott run ads bragging about it? Not directly.

The radio ad in question comes from Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private economic development arm chaired by Scott. The ad did boast about Florida’s lack of income tax and Scott’s efforts to cut regulations. But Levine went too far in saying Scott bragged about the state’s minimum wage.

Ad doesn’t explicitly talk about Florida’s minimum wage

Levine’s spokesman Christian Ulvert sent two columns by opinion writers and one article that discussed radio ads in California that coincided with a business recruitment trip by Scott in May 2016.

The Enterprise Florida ad talked about lost jobs that would come if California approved a $15 minimum wage. When the ad brought up Florida, the focus was on lower taxes and less regulation, not Florida’s minimum wage explicitly.

"Seven hundred thousand. That’s how many California jobs will be lost thanks to the politicians raising the minimum wage. Ready to leave California? Go to Florida instead — no state income tax, and Gov. Scott has cut regulations. Now Florida is adding 1 million jobs, not losing them."  

We didn’t hear back from Scott by our deadline. When we last looked at the ad in 2016, a Scott spokeswoman said the ad wasn’t Scott bragging about low wages, but rather him pointing out differences between the states’ economies.

"He has never said he is proud of how low our wages are," said Jackie Schutz Zeckman, now Scott’s chief of staff.

Levine’s spokesman disagreed, arguing the the "intent and purpose" of the ad, as interpreted by newspaper editorial writers and columnists, was centered around wages.

"The governor has bragged about Florida's low wages a number of times and allowed tax dollars to be used to highlight that fact in California," Ulvert said. "All facts."

Ulvert also pointed to the state’s decision to join the lawsuit against Miami Beach’s minimum wage ordinance that aimed to increase the city starting wage to $13.31 by 2021. (The ordinance was struck down in Miami-Dade circuit court in March.)

Ulvert has a point that multiple news outlets — mostly columnists — have accused Scott of plugging low wages in the context of the radio ad and trips to California, even though he’s never explicitly said it. Here’s an example editorial from the Palm Beach Post.

"Gov. Rick Scott has spent the week on another job poaching expedition, this time in California. The prowling governor aimed to entice employers to move their companies to the Sunshine State. His pitch: Wages are low in Florida."

This isn’t the first time we’ve looked at this argument. Scott has openly tried to steal jobs from other states for years.

In 2016, then-U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham accused Scott of going "around the country" and bragging about Florida’s low wages to other states. Florida’s wages in 2016 were low by national standards, but it didn’t appear Scott boasted (at least publicly) about this fact while recruiting businesses from other states.

When we reviewed Scott’s statements from these recruiting missions, we found he did focus quite a bit on the state’s low taxes for businesses. He never explicitly advertised it like Graham, and now Levine, said.

"By raising the minimum wage in California, 700,000 people are going to lose their jobs, there are a lot of opportunities for companies to prosper in Florida and compete here, and that's what I'm going after," Scott said on his three-day tour.

By the way, PolitiFact Florida previously researched whether California stood to lose 700,000 jobs because of the wage increase and rated the statement Mostly False. We learned the figure was a projection of how many jobs California could have added by 2026 if it didn’t increase the minimum wage, not a decline in net employment.

Our ruling

Levine said Scott has run ads bragging about Florida’s minimum wage, which is currently $8.10 an hour.  

The closest example is Enterprise Florida’s California radio ad, which is critical of California’s $15 minimum wage but never explicitly brags or talks about Florida’s minimum wage.

Levine put words in Scott's mouth, when at most there is an implication. We rate his claim Mostly False.

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Mostly False
Says Florida "workers are paid $8.10 an hour, and our current governor (Rick Scott) runs ads bragging about it."
in a speech
Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Our Sources

Interview, Christian Ulvert, spokesman for Philip Levine, Nov. 2

Interview with Chris Lafakis, Moody’s senior economist, Nov. 2

PolitiFact Florida, "Gwen Graham says Rick Scott boasts about Florida's low wages," aUG. 3, 2016

Orlando Sentinel, "Kassab: Rick Scott shamelessly plugs low wages in Florida," May 5, 2016

Miami Herald, "Gov. Scott went to California, dreaming," May 6, 2016

CBS SFBay Area, "Gov. Rick Scott Tries To Lure California Companies To Florida With Low Minimum Wage," May 3, 2016

Palm Beach Post, "Editorial: Florida’s low wages are nothing to brag about, Gov. Scott," May 6, 2016

Video, Philip Levine for Governor Announcement

 

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