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Sorting out the truth in state politics

PolitiFact Florida: Fact-checking Gov. Rick Scott's State of the State

In Gov. Rick Scott's State of the State address Tuesday, he said he had fulfilled his key 2010 campaign promises to curb spending and help employment rebound. He also touted the state's education system.

PolitiFact Florida rated his speech on the Truth-O-Meter.

During his administration, Floridians have enjoyed quite a bit of tax relief, Scott said. "Together, we have cut taxes 24 times already," he said.

We've rated this claim before. Defining what counted as a tax cut as anything that reduced government revenue $3 million per year or more, Scott's office provided PolitiFact Florida with a list of the 25 — not 24.

There was quite a bit of spin on the list, however. Among the items were sales-tax holidays, which were counted four times for the three years they were held; corporate tax exemptions; tax credit scholarships (which give breaks to businesses); and reduced unemployment compensation taxes.

The caveats is those examples disproportionately benefited businesses and were often tax credits instead of tax cuts. People who aren't business owners haven't seen anything like 24 tax cuts. We rated the statement Half True.

Scott also repeated a line from last year's State of the State, saying "Florida's economy was driven into the ground by spending" and "racked up big debt."

Economists told us last year that runaway government spending was not the problem. The real estate crash, the Great Recession and withering construction and tourism industries were to blame. We rated Scott's claim False.

Scott also crowed that "Florida high schools are four out of the top 10 in the entire United States." He was referring to the May 2013 rankings by Newsweek , which named the International Baccalaureate School at Bartow High in Bartow; the School for Advanced Studies in Miami; Riviera Beach's Suncoast Community High School; and Stanton College Preparatory School in Jacksonville among its top 10.

When we asked some experts about the rankings, they mentioned numerous problems with any list like this in general, and Newsweek's specifically. For one, the data was self-reported from only about 2,500 of the 20,000 high schools in the country, and wasn't properly interpreted.

Not only that, different rankings yield different results. None of those four schools appeared in the U.S. News and World Report's top 10, for example. We rated the statement Half True.

The governor also boasted of the state's public colleges answering the challenge to create affordable degree programs. "I'm proud that all of our four-year state colleges now offer bachelor's degrees for only $10,000."

Twenty-three schools and a community college agreed to create programs, but only 10 began enrolling students in a few specific fields of study in the fall 2013 semester, with three more on track to begin in spring 2014. The costs also only pertain to tuition, and not any other expenses, such as books or room and board. We rated the claim Mostly False.

Edited for print. Read the full versions at PolitiFact.com/Florida.

PolitiFact Florida: Fact-checking Gov. Rick Scott's State of the State 03/04/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 11:32pm]

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