Gov. Rick Scott's 7-7-7 plan to grow Florida's economy has been marching steadily forward the past four years now, but it appears some facets of the plan have just about been achieved -- depending on how you measure the progress.
While PolitiFact has been tracking Scott's seven-year, seven-step blueprint to create 700,000 jobs, it's important to remember he also promised to increase other indicators of a healthy state economy. While he had said all seven steps of his plan were important to achieving those goals, not all were enacted (for example: the corporate income tax has only been reduced, not eliminated entirely). That hasn't stopped the state from growing, however.
We decided it was time to see how those measures stacked up heading into the Nov. 4 election.
'$74 billion in state GDP'
The most broad measure of the economy is GDP, or the total value of goods and services Florida produces. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis measures this two ways: nominal GDP and real GDP.
What's the difference? Nominal GDP gives the measure in an actual dollar figure, while real GDP adjusts the number for inflation and price increases. That's an important difference, because the numbers are wildly different in the context of Scott's promise.
In 2010, Florida's nominal GDP was $728.6 billion, according to BEA. In the first quarter of 2014, the most recent measure to which we have access, it was $800.5 billion. That's a difference of $71.9 billion, very close to Scott's prediction, and with another three years to go.
But in terms of real GDP, the increase is much less: from $721 billion in 2010 to $750.5 billion this year, a change of $29.5 billion in adjusted dollars.
Scott's campaign used the nominal GDP numbers when PolitiFact Florida asked where the promise stands, of course, and experts told us that's hardly a surprise.
"I think it is unlikely that politicians ever make statements about dollar amounts for economic variables using real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) numbers," University of West Florida economist Rick Harper said. "So I think nominal is more defensible."
'$41 billion in higher personal income'
Personal income has increased dramatically in the same time period, according to federal statistics. From the fourth quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2014, that indicator shot up $96.7 billion, more than twice what Scott promised.
That rise from $738.7 billion to $835.4 billion has a correlation to Scott's jobs promise. We found that as of July 2014, Florida had added 594,900 new jobs since Scott took office. That's less than what the governor's office is counting, 620,300 jobs, because they are only measuring private jobs and not factoring in a drop in government employment.
Scott also has backed off campaign trail promises that he would create 700,000 jobs on top of the 1 million jobs analysts had already predicted Florida would add as it climbed out of the Great Recession. Faced with the projections that a million new jobs would become available over five years regardless of who was in the Governor's Mansion, Scott said in 2010 the true result would be 1.7 million, even though there were only about 1 million Floridians out of work at the time. His answer was that more people would move to Florida to fill those new positions.
He soon recanted, telling reporters asking about the 1.7 million jobs promise, "I don't know who said that. I have no idea."
'$1 billion in total state tax revenues'
This portion, too, appears to have been met, although it largely depends on which numbers you use. The promise makes no mention of how this goal was supposed to be measured, and there are many ways to look at state tax collections to include collections from fees, trust funds and more in addition to taxes from everyday commerce and assessments.
We're going to use the federal measure, which says tax revenue went up from $30.5 billion in 2010 to $34.6 billion in 2013. That's a spike of $4.1 billion in four years, more than four times what Scott had said would happen.
The number could be much lower if we looked at it a different way. Using the fiscal year general revenue numbers from the state's Office of Economic and Demographic Research, the number is more like $3.8 billion, according to state economist Amy Baker, but the figure has gone up either way.
All part of the plan
There's a question looming over this data: Did Scott mean these numbers would be increases over already projected figures, as he said (and then later denied) about the jobs promise?
That's tough to say, and the governor's campaign isn't addressing it. David Denslow, a research economist at the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research, said the wording of the plan was important.
He noted the plan says the state "will gain an additional" 700,000 jobs, plus these three other promises. It's not specific enough to glean whether that means on their own or on top of projections, which have turned out to be optimistic even as Florida's 2.2 percent growth in 2013 outpaced the United States as a whole, which was performing below initial predictions at a meager 1.8 percent.
"By his interpretation, he's applying an insurance policy in case the world fell off a cliff," Denslow said. "(Scott's plan) is saying, you'll still have a powerful governor who will improve things."
Whether Scott can take credit for growth that was largely predicted to happen anyway is a matter of politics, according to Sean Snaith, director of the Institute for Economic Competitiveness at the University of Central Florida.
"The governor was elected as the state was recovering from the recession," Snaith said. "That didn't hurt."
Scott inherited an economic climate that was already on the upswing by 2010, he said, and has benefitted from a steady inflow of new retirees whose investments have recovered and a housing market getting back on its feet. Both of those are always big elements in the state's economy. You'd expect a politician to promote positive changes, Snaith said.
"It's like a buffet," he said. " 'All these things were because of me, and all the bad things were the last guy's fault.' "
In addition to adding 700,000 jobs, Scott said his economic plan would grow GDP, personal income and tax revenue by certain margins.
These measurements can be looked at in a few different ways, but it certainly seems he's on the right track: Personal income and tax revenue numbers have exceeded his promises and GDP is almost there, assuming the promises weren't on top of growth already projected.
The plan is for seven years, so if Scott is re-elected in November he will have plenty of time to reach that final goal. We rate this promise In The Works.