Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

PolitiFact Florida | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in state politics

PolitiFact Florida: Gov. Scott's record belies his environment claim

So we know Gov. Rick Scott likes to portray himself as the jobs-promoter-in-chief but what about tree-hugger-in-chief?

During his fourth State of the state speech last week, Scott began by reeling off a list of recent accomplishments.

"A lot has happened since I spoke to you last year. I can talk about how our unemployment rate is now down to 6.3 percent. How our crime rate is at a 42-year low. How we have invested record funding in protecting our environment."

The environment claim caught our attention.

Spokesman John Tupps told PolitiFact Florida in an email that Scott was referring to his proposed budget that includes a "record $55 million" to protect and restore springs — "building upon last year's investment of more than $37 million."

Funding for springs is only a subset of funding for environmental protection, so we asked the Department of Environmental Protection for the bottom-line budget total for each year during Scott's tenure. We found similar figures back to 2004, during the tenure of his predecessors, Govs. Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush.

2004-05: $2.1 billion

2005-06: $2 billion

2006-07: $2.9 billion

2007-08: $2.4 billion

2008-09: $2 billion

2009-10: $1.3 billion

2010-11: $1.4 billion

2011-12: $1.8 billion

2012-13: $1.4 billion

2013-14: $1.3 billion

These are appropriation numbers, not actual expenditures, and they combine state and federal dollars. In several years, the numbers included debt service payments of more than $400 million.

It's no surprise that the dollar amounts were higher in flush financial times under Bush and part of Crist's term and then plummeted along with the economy in the second half of Crist's tenure and Scott's tenure. We have seen the same pattern for other state spending priorities.

Spokespersons for DEP and Scott also cited other environmental projects Scott has supported — including an $880 million water quality plan to provide clean water to the Everglades.

Now the total DEP budget doesn't tell the full story because other agencies do work that relates to protecting the environment.

We interviewed several environmentalists who pointed to examples of Scott's lack of investment in protecting the environment:

• In 2011, Scott and the Legislature abolished the Department of Community Affairs, which for decades reviewed development plans in cities and counties.

• In 2011, Scott and lawmakers forced state water management districts to slash property tax collections. The South Florida Water Management District's total budget dropped from about $1 billion in 2011 to $622 million in 2014. Water management districts handle planning for water resources and wetlands protection, among other environmental issues.

• In December 2012, DEP laid off 58 employees.

• The number of enforcement cases handled by DEP has dropped dramatically, from 2,289 in 2010 (Crist's final year) to 799 in 2012. As of the end of May, only 145 new cases had been filed.

• For many years the Legislature invested $300 million a year in Florida Forever, a program to buy land with money from a tax on real estate transactions. During the economic downturn, the Legislature pulled back. In 2010, Crist's final year, the program received $15 million. In 2011, Scott proposed zeroing out Florida Forever (it ultimately got $744,000), and then in 2012 he signed a budget that included about $8 million. In 2013, lawmakers approved $20 million and directed the state to sell off $50 million worth of land to generate additional dollars. In March, DEP scrapped the program without selling an acre.

Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club's senior organizing manager in Florida, said Scott's claim is "disconcerting" because of the various cuts.

"You have to take all that into account when you run budget numbers," he said. "It sounds to me like Scott's people are coming up with their own selective set of budget figures. … He doesn't have environmental creds as far as I am concerned."

Scott tried to take his spending recommendation for one particular environmental project — springs restoration — and portray that as an overall record, and that's not the case. We rate this claim False.

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com/florida.

The statement

"We have invested record funding in protecting our environment."

Gov., Rick Scott, March 4 in his State of the State speech

The ruling

Politifact ruling: False
Under one way to compare funding — the total for the Department of Environmental Protection — Scott falls far short of Jeb Bush's record. Scott doesn't beat Charlie Crist's record, either. And other factors contribute to Scott portraying an overall record that is not there. We rate this claim False.

PolitiFact Florida: Gov. Scott's record belies his environment claim 03/09/14 [Last modified: Sunday, March 9, 2014 8:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Who's behind the mysterious butt graffiti all over St. Petersburg?

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first butts, perhaps, appeared in April on some steps behind the Sundial shopping plaza.

    A photo of the butt graffiti that has been cropping up around St. Petersburg in the past several months. [CHRISTOPHER SPATA | STAFF]
  2. During the most expensive mayoral election ever, St. Petersburg City Council wants to limit PAC money

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — In front of a large group of red-shirted campaign finance reform supporters, the St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday started the ball rolling on an ordinance that would limit individual campaign contributions to $5,000 from political action committees.

    A large crowd gathered Thursday to support passage of a controversial measure to limit campaign spending in city elections
  3. Minority business accelerator launch by Tampa chamber to aid black, Hispanic businesses

    Business

    A "minority business accelerator" program was launched Thursday by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce geared toward helping black and Hispanic business owners identify and overcome barriers to grow their companies. The accelerator, known as MBA, will provide participants with business tools to cultivate opportunities …

    Bemetra Simmons is a senior private banker at Wells Fargo, The Private Bank. She is also chair of the new minority business accelerator program for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. [Photo, LinkedIn]
  4. Peter Budaj loves 'vibe' with Lightning

    Blogs

    Two years ago, nobody was willing to give Peter Budaj a shot, the veteran goalie wondering if he'd ever play in the NHL again.

    Peter Budaj signed a two-year extension with the Lightning, worth $1.025 million per year.
  5. A test the Rays haven't passed

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — I have no idea what to think about the Rays. Not a clue.

    Tampa Bay Rays players celebrate their 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.