The DeSant-O-Meter: Tracking the campaign promises of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

(AP Image)
(AP Image)

In his 2018 bid for governor, Ron DeSantis promised he would be a champion for Florida’s environment, give students a world-class education and diversify the economy.

DeSantis didn’t make many campaign promises, arguing that Florida is already one of the "world’s most desirable destinations."

"As governor, Ron DeSantis will build on this incredible economic momentum, beginning on day one and take Florida’s economy to the next level," the former Republican congressman said on his campaign website.

PolitiFact Florida is tracking 15 specific campaign promises on our new DeSant-O-Meter. Today’s launch coincides with the opening day of the legislative session, the new governor’s first window to advance his campaign agenda.

Each promise will receive a rating of In the Works, Stalled, Kept, Broken or Compromise depending on the action and attention it receives. We rate outcomes, not intentions, so DeSantis will need to work with the Legislature to move his promises along.

It's the same process PolitiFact used to hold Gov. Rick Scott accountable for his promises. At the national level, the Trump-O-Meter tracks President Donald Trump’s promises, just as the Obameter measured Barack Obama’s.

DeSantis, a three-term northeast Florida congressman, didn’t have detailed proposals to win his Republican primary. But he did have President Donald Trump’s endorsement.

In the general election, DeSantis’ main goal was to tell voters how much he disagreed with the policies of his Democratic rival, Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee. During the campaign, Gillum faced heat over an FBI corruption probe of city development and proposed a massive corporate tax hike.

With Trump’s support and Gillum’s baggage, DeSantis didn’t need to make detailed policy pledges,  said Mac Stipanovich, a Florida Republican strategist and critic of Trump.

"His few statements on policy were vague, and I suspect deliberately so," Stipanovich said.  "This had two advantages. The vague generalities did not expose him to specific criticism, and the lack of specificity has given him maximum latitude as governor to develop his agenda."

DeSantis’ generalist bent allowed him to act quickly once elected, said Susan MacManus, University of South Florida political science professor emerita. Coming off an election where he won by half a percent, he moved quickly on several bipartisan issues — "the total opposite of what people thought he would do," she said.

He suspended public officials, issued an executive order on the environment and pardoned the Groveland Four, the black men falsely accused of raping a white woman in 1949.

Some of the promises by DeSantis are similar to Scott’s agenda, but they are easier to keep.

For example, Scott promised to get rid of the corporate tax (Promise Broken). DeSantis promised to work to lower it.

On education, Scott promised Florida would rise to No. 1 in reading and math (Promise Broken). DeSantis instead set a goal of cracking the top three.

On the environment, DeSantis spoke generally about preserving Florida’s beauty and avoided specific details on climate change.

So far it has worked to DeSantis’ benefit that he didn’t set more detailed policy promises, because the expectations bar was set low, said University of Central Florida professor Aubrey Jewett.

"And subsequently when Gov. DeSantis has taken some unexpected actions, his public approval and media approval have gone way up," Jewett said, especially since he won by a narrow margin.

Research shows that most voters are not choosing their candidates on the details of policy right now. The most important voting cue, Jewett said, is party identification, followed by characteristics such as personality and name recognition.

"Specific policy proposals are a distant third for most voters in terms of how people make up their mind who to vote for," he said.

Here are the 15 promises we will track:

ENVIRONMENT

1) Fight red tide.

"Find Solutions to the Unprecedented Red Tides in Southwest Florida."

  • Ron DeSantis for governor 2018 website

2) Address rising sea level challenges

"Ron DeSantis will work with local governments to prioritize sustainable growth and flood mitigation efforts and rising sea levels."

Ron DeSantis for governor 2018 website

3) Ban fracking

"On day one, Ron DeSantis will advocate to the Florida Legislature to pass legislation that bans fracking in the state."

Ron DeSantis for governor 2018 website

4) Protect clean air

"Florida is blessed to have some of the cleanest air in the country and as Governor, Ron DeSantis will continue this legacy through continued aggressive air quality monitoring and working with local stakeholders and utility companies to further improve our air quality."

Ron SeSantis for governor 2018 website

5) Build reservoir near Lake Okeechobee

"We need the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. I will be able to get that done."

CNN debate Oct. 21, 2018

EDUCATION

6) Top 3 state on reading and math

"As Governor, Ron DeSantis will set the ambitious goal of achieving top 3 status in both the NAEP and K-12 achievement rankings."

Ron DeSantis for governor 2018 website

7) Expand choice scholarship programs in K-12

"Ron DeSantis will support policies that expand choice scholarships, including raising the cap on the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program."

Ron DeSantis for governor 2018 website

8) Address teacher shortages

"To help recruit the best teachers, Ron DeSantis will work with the Legislature to expand programs that incentivize top educators to teach in Florida and to develop programs that incentivize and reward teachers in more demanding or specialized positions, such as teaching Florida’s special needs students."

Ron DeSantis for governor 2018 website

ECONOMY/TAXES

9) Phase out business rent tax

"Florida is the only state in the country that taxes businesses on their rent payments. This tax hits small businesses especially hard. For us to be competitive, it is imperative that we phase out this tax to help businesses, especially small businesses, invest money back into growing their company and hiring more employees."

Ron DeSantis for governor 2018 website

10) Reduce TV and cell phone tax

"Reduce the Communication Services Tax on TV, Cellphones, and Streaming Video Services. The tax on cell phones and cable TV, known as the Communication Services Tax, is one of the highest in the nation. Cell phone and cable bills are high enough without the state adding to them. As Governor, Ron DeSantis will work to lower this tax that hits most Floridians."

Ron DeSantis for governor 2018 website

11) Reduce the corporate income tax

"Ron DeSantis know that for business to flourish and job growth to continue, we must be as competitive as possible. As Governor, Ron DeSantis will work to lower this business tax to encourage businesses to move to Florida and help Florida-based businesses continue to grow."

Ron DeSantis for governor 2018 website

12) Diversify Florida’s economy

"Support Efforts to Diversify our Economy. As Governor, Ron DeSantis is committed to bring higher-paying jobs to Florida and diversifying our economy is the key. We must continue to grow traditional sectors of tourism, construction and agriculture, while building opportunity in other business sectors. Financial services, biomedical research, and aerospace industries bring many high paying jobs and spur local economic growth. As Governor, Ron DeSantis will focus on efforts that create a Florida business environment where companies want to move and grow."

Ron DeSantis for governor 2018 website

13) Expand the types of health care plans available to Floridians

Modernize "Florida’s insurance laws so patients have access to non-traditional products, like expanded, direct physician care agreements or tailored plans, like short-term coverage or limited-benefit plans."

Ron DeSantis for governor 2018 website

14) More access to mental health/substance abuse programs

"He will advocate for expanded access to and early intervention of mental health and substance abuse treatment programs."

Ron DeSantis for governor 2018 website

15) Enact E-Verify

"Enact E-verify to ensure a legal workforce and higher wages for Floridians."

Ron DeSantis for governor 2018 website

If you spot any actions by DeSantis that warrant an update on our DeSant-O-Meter or any claims by a Florida politician we should fact-check email [email protected].