Through all the debates, TV ads, emails to supporters and appearances on the campaign trail, PolitiFact Florida has been fact-checking the race for Florida governor. We’ve published more than 80 fact-checks over the past year on everything from abortion to immigration to university tuition.
Overall, the race between incumbent Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist has been chock-full of attacks, with each side sending out a barrage of negative commentary on the other guy.But the issues have also been substantive. Some of the topics we’ve fact-checked most often are job creation and education funding.
Here, then, is a rundown of our most significant fact-checks in the campaign for Florida’s governor.
Scott and Crist have regularly sparred over who would be most on the side of average voters when it came to pocketbook issues.
When it comes to electricity bills, Scott has said that electric bills spiked under Crist but went down under Scott. PolitiFact Florida did a detailed analysis of electricity rates and found that fuel costs were higher under Crist, but that part of the bill gets passed on directly to the consumer. Also, overall rates went down under Crist, not up. Meanwhile, base rates — the part of the bill that the state has more control over — were up under Scott. Overall, we rated Scott’s statement False.
Scott’s claim on college tuition, though, fared better on our Truth-O-Meter. Scott has taken credit for reducing prepaid college tuition costs by $20,000. We found that Scott did approve a law that reduced prepaid tuition by dropping some of the automatic tuition increases that were part of the program. Scott got an assist from the Legislature, so we rated his statement Mostly True.
Crist, meanwhile, often criticizes Scott for cutting Bright Futures scholarships. That claim leaves a lot out: Scott hasn’t cut the amount of the scholarship, but he and the Legislature have tightened standards so that fewer students qualify. This was a cost-saving measure, and the stricter standards actually started under Crist, which Crist doesn’t mention. We’ve rated Crist’s statement Half True.
When it comes to taxes, Crist’s record as governor was mixed. For example, Scott has attacked Crist for raising taxes by $2.2billion, and that claim has some merit. In the midst of recession in 2009, Crist signed off on a package passed by the Republican-led Legislature that included that much in tax increases, including cigarette taxes and higher auto tag fees. Lawmakers said the taxes were needed to balance the budget, and they tied them to school funding so Crist wouldn’t use a line-item veto. We rated Scott’s attack Mostly True.
On the other hand, Crist also cut taxes during his time as governor. Crist has reminded voters that he cut property taxes for many Floridians in the wake of 2008’s Amendment1, a voter-approved referendum that increased tax exemptions for homeowners. We rated Crist’s statement Mostly True, noting that it’s impossible to tell whether his tax cuts were outweighed by the later tax increases. (It would depend on if an individual owned property, smoked cigarettes, owned a car and more.)
Crist has claimed that Scott is the one who raised taxes, a claim we found dubious. Scott has opposed most tax increases, with one notable exception. With post-recession property values rising across the state, current rates will be bringing in more tax money than before, despite no action from the governor or lawmakers. That’s something of an increase in taxes, but it’s not an increase in tax rates. Also, projected collections under Scott are less than during Crist’s last approved budget. We rated Crist’s attack Mostly False.
Scott talks about jobs constantly, so it’s not much of a surprise he has attacked Crist over and over for losing 832,000 jobs in Florida under Crist’s watch. The number there is right, but it’s hard to point to anything Crist did to cause those losses. Rather, they were the result of 2008’s national financial crisis and housing crash. We rated Scott’s statement Half True.
Scott also has blamed Crist for teacher layoffs, saying 3,000 teaching jobs were eliminated under Crist. That number is speculative and based off media reports; some schools took extra measures to make sure teachers weren’t laid off after the recession hit. Also, Crist accepted the federal stimulus of 2009, which preserved approximately 20,000 teachers’ jobs. We rated Scott’s attack Mostly False.
Crist says Democratic policies on healthcare and infrastructure can create jobs, but he has repeatedly inflated estimates on job creation. Crist supports expanding Medicaid, a health insurance program for the poor, as part of the federal healthcare law, and he has said it could create 120,000 jobs in Florida. That’s the highest estimate, though, put out by a hospital association that stands to benefit from the expansion. Another study pegged it as low as 10,000, while yet another said 64,000. For going with the highest estimate out there, we rated Crist’s statement Half True.
Similarly, Crist said that if Scott had gone along with President Barack Obama’s idea of building high-speed rail, it could have created 60,000 jobs. That’s a wildly inflated estimate; a rail line between Tampa and Orlando would have created construction jobs but wuold have only resulted in about 1,100 permanent new jobs, according to independent estimates. We rated Crist’s statement False.
Changes of position
One of the top attacks against Crist is that he has changed many positions on policy since he changed parties, from Republican to independent to Democrat. PolitiFact Florida measures changes of position on our Flip-O-Meter; the meter is not intended to pass judgment on people’s decisions to change their minds. Our reports simply document if they did.
We found that Crist has indeed changed position on several subjects. On some issues, he has merely modified his views.
Crist’s biggest changes of positions have been on the federal healthcare law, rights for gays and lesbians, and the Cuba embargo. He once said that the healthcare law should be repealed; now he calls it great and urges Democrats to defend it (Full Flop). On same-sex marriage, he once voted for a state constitutional ban, but now says he looks forward to the day marriages happen in Florida. (Full Flop). In 2010, Crist supported the long-standing embargo on Cuba, but in 2014 he said the embargo had failed and should be done away with (Full Flop).
On abortion, we rated Crist’s changing views a Half Flip. Over many years, Crist has offered contradictory views on abortion. But he has always framed it as supporting life while letting women make their own medical decisions. On the trail this year, he has emphasized abortion rights. Because he hasn’t had a consistent view, we rated his current position a Half Flip.
Scott has changed positions on a few things as well. He once opposed expanded Medicaid; in 2013 he announced he supported it, though Medicaid advocates have complained that his support has been tepid (Full Flop). Scott once opposed in-state tuition for young immigrants here illegally; this year he signed a law allowing it (Full Flop).
PolitiFact Florida also tracks campaign promises made by elected officials, and we’ve been tracking Scott’s campaign promises on our Scott-O-Meter. A review of Scott’s promises shows a mixed report. He’s certainly tried hard on jobs. He’s succeeded in shrinking government. He’s largely reversed himself on immigration. For example, Scott backed off a campaign promise to bring a strict Arizona-style immigration law to Florida that would have allowed police to stop people if the cops question their immigration status.
Scott’s second-term promises are largely about growing jobs and improving education. He has promised to deliver $1billion in tax and fee cuts over two years, including a constitutional amendment to prevent property taxes from increasing if a home’s value doesn’t increase. For business, he has pledged to eliminate the manufacturing tax. On education, he has promised to raise K-12 per-pupil spending to $7,176 — $50 more than the high mark under Crist.
PolitiFact Florida began tracking campaign promises with Scott’s election in 2010. If Crist wins, we’ll launch a new meter. Crist has promised to fight for gay marriage, make it easier for college students to vote, veto abortion restrictions and raise the minimum wage. He also has promised to increase K-12 per-pupil spending back to $7,126, the high point when he was governor in 2007-08, and he has promised to accept federal money for Medicaid expansion.
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Miami Herald reporter Amy Sherman contributed to this article.