When Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced he approved a $74.1 billion budget, he portrayed it as having plenty of goodies for everyone, from school teacher raises to hot meals for the elderly. But he also claimed that the budget was lean.
"This budget also reflects the smallest state government workforce per 1,000 residents in Florida in this century," Scott wrote in his May 20th veto and budget message. "The Florida Families First budget is one of our state's smallest budgets this century, when adjusted for population growth and inflation."
PolitiFact Florida has separately tracked Scott's 2010 campaign progress to reduce the state workforce by 5 percent -- we rated that Promise Kept earlier this year.
Here, we wanted to fact-check Scott's claim that the recently approved budget reflects the smallest state workforce in relation to population since 2000.
There are a few valid ways to measure the number of state workers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles data on actual state workers while the state Department of Management Services annual workforce reports show both established positions (including vacant ones) and actual employees (some folks refer to that as ‘heartbeats'.)
But here, Scott's office of policy and budget created their own chart by pulling together budget data. We did not review the full backup that shows all the details that went into the chart but we interviewed spokespersons in Scott's office who explained their methodology to PolitiFact. Here is how they arrived at their figures: They started with the state's general appropriations budget each year, which does not include the state university workers. Then they made some adjustments to provide apples to apples comparisons: Scott subtracted for vetoes -- his own and by recent past governors -- and by subtracting county health workers, who were not included in state budgets before 2009-10. Scott's office also added in positions that were included in separate bills not reflected in the general budget bill. That's how Scott's office arrived at a figure of adjusted positions.
Then Scott's office examined population data from the state's Office of Economic and Democratic Research. That data includes some projections so it sometimes has slightly different figures from the Census Bureau.
Ratio declined before Scott, too
Our task here is to fact-check whether Scott's claim about the declining state workers per capita was correct -- not whether or not that is the best policy or why the numbers declined. But we will briefly provide some background about the state workforce.
First, we'll note that the ratio of Scott's adjusted positions compared to population has declined under not only Scott, but also his predecessors Charlie Crist (Republican turned independent while in office, and now a Democrat) and Jeb Bush (Republican).
PolitiFact Florida fact-checked a claim by Alex Sink, Scott's Democratic opponent in 2010, who said at the time that "Compared to other states, Florida ranks last in the ratio of employees to residents: 118 per 10,000 compared to the national average of 216 employees per 10,000 residents. And Florida is dead last in the nation in state employee payroll expenditures per resident: $38 compared to the national average of $69 per resident." We rated Sink's claim True.
(The National Conference of State Legislatures did not have an updated ranking to reflect Scott's tenure.)