When Rick Scott ran for governor in 2010, his promise to create 700,000 private sector jobs in seven years seemed too good to be true. Evidently, it was.
Floridians desperate for employment gave him the benefit of the doubt and voted Mr. Scott into office despite the sketchy details of his job-creation promise. Three years later and working up a head of steam for a second campaign in 2014, the Republican chief executive unashamedly takes credit for every new job in the state.
Not so fast, governor.
An in-depth analysis by the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times shows the governor’s pledge has fallen well short of the mark. Of the jobs Mr. Scott can influence most, only a fraction now exist. He has pledged $266 million in tax breaks and other incentives in turn for 45,258 new jobs, but 96 percent of them have yet to materialize.
The larger economic picture has undoubtedly improved since Mr. Scott took over. Some 440,000 private-sector jobs have been created in the state since January 2011, when Gov. Scott took office. The state’s unemployment rate has dropped from 11.1 percent to 6.7 percent. Those are positive measures of the economy’s rebound from the depths of the Great Recession, but the credit is not Mr. Scott’s alone by any means.
The analysis also found a loss of 49,163 jobs at companies with more than 100 employees and the loss of 37,736 jobs at companies with fewer than nine employees. Most important (and overlooked by Mr. Scott and his spokesmen), the nonpartisan economists at the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research announced in mid-2010 that Florida would add 1.05 million jobs between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2018, no matter who lived in the Governor’s Mansion, as a result of normal job growth.
Thus, to fulfill his promise of making a difference, Mr. Scott would have to come up with 1.7 million jobs in seven years. It would require the state to produce 20,000 jobs per month on average, every month, for seven years. The actual number is 12,000.
And who really deserves credit for those jobs that have been realized? No doubt the governor and the Legislature deserve their share, but others have probably had a greater impact. That would include Congress and President Obama’s stimulus plan, the private sector and entrepreneurs, local governments, chambers of commerce and others — above all, the Federal Reserve and its mission to reduce unemployment.
The issue is not Mr. Scott’s commitment to job creation. He works at it around the clock, has led successful trade missions around the world and gets directly involved whenever the chance arises to persuade an out-of-state company to relocate to Florida. But the gap between Mr. Scott’s promises and his ability to deliver must be noted.
The effort to lure new companies and their jobs to the Sunshine State by pledging $266 million in tax breaks and other incentives is the most troubling. The number of jobs promised came to 45,258. Jobs delivered: 1,939. Meawhile, the number of layoffs at companies with more than 100 workers between January 2011 and November came to 49,163, according to federal data.
Given this poor performance, it may be time for the govenor and Legislature to ask whether the state’s money could be put to better use. Making deals and attending ribbon-cuttings make for good PR, but so far this program hasn’t lived up to the governor’s promises.