Gov. Rick Scott vigorously defended the state’s agencies for business incentives and tourism marketing on Tuesday in his State of the State address, delivered just steps away from the fellow Republican attacking the governor’s priorities.
Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran did not call each other out by name in separate opening-day speeches, but each man used pointed language to double down on his view of the fiery Enterprise Florida/Visit Florida debate.
“It’s easy to throw out catch phrases like ‘picking winners and losers’ and ‘corporate welfare,’” Scott said in reference to Corcoran’s attacks on Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. “But that’s not what we are doing.”
Corcoran warned that the House would not back down: “And for anyone waiting for us to slow down, to drop the big ideas, to stop trying to shake up the system, to cower in the face of attacks, or to cave to the demands of special interests; here’s our message to you: We will not.”
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Here’s a rundown of the governor’s remarks with context and a fact-check of a Florida Democratic leader.
If Republican leaders want to attract good-paying jobs to Florida, House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz says that they should start with well-funded public schools.
“The right thing is to just give teachers a raise,” said Cruz, who represents Tampa. “It is embarrassing and I am ashamed that Florida pays our teachers $10,000 a year less than the national average. We are one of the largest states in the country. If we continue to recruit and retain the most talented people to educate our children, it starts with paying them a wage that they can live on without working a second job.”
Cruz certainly has a point. On the specifics, teacher pay in Florida lags behind the national average by about $9,000 according to the National Education Association. We rated her claim Mostly True.
State still cranking on jobs
Scott touted his successes since taking office, many of which are tracked on our Scott-O-Meter.
Scott said Florida has added more than 1.2 million new private-sector jobs since he first took office. Scott is citing accurate data, but he still has quite a bit to go before reaching his 2010 promise of 1.7 million jobs in seven years, so this promise stays In the Works.
Getting by with a little help from a friend (in the White House)
Scott gave fellow Republican and “my friend, Donald Trump, a businessman, outsider like myself,” a nod during his speech.
Trump’s election and the continued Republican stronghold on Congress means Scott’s efforts to weaken and replace the Affordable Care Act has legs. Scott told reporters in January that he has been talking with Trump every week or two and is working with former Georgia Rep. Tom Price, now Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services.
“Visit Florida has been responsible for recruiting record numbers of visitors — including a record of nearly 113 million last year,” Scott said.
That checks out with Visit Florida’s estimates. The outlook is similarly bright for another important measure of tourism, how much money they spend while they’re here. According to Visit Florida data, tourist spending has steadily increased from $71.8 billion in 2012-13 to $89.1 billion in 2015-16.
Scott, however, gives Visit Florida too much credit for the tourism boost. Other factors can affect annual tourism arrivals and spending, including hurricanes and other natural disasters, terrorism and crime, the political environment, gas prices, and the cost of flights.
• Once again, Scott said he will pursue a repeal of the state’s “unfair””tax on corporate leases.
• With the Legislature's help, Scott said, “We have cut taxes 55 times.” In previous iterations of this talking point, Scott's total has accounted for more than just pure tax cuts, including esoteric tax credits, changes in unemployment compensation and sales tax holidays.
Politifact Florida is a partnership between The Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald to check out truth in politics.