For Rick Scott, a Republican businessman running for governor, distinguishing himself from a Democratic competitor who also focuses on jobs is simple: He ties her to "President Obama's agenda."
So at an appearance before Tallahassee reporters the Friday before Labor Day, he described how he differs from Alex Sink on job creation by mentioning health care, the Bush tax cuts and the federal stimulus.
"I think it's very simple. Higher taxes kill jobs. Regulations kill jobs. Obamacare is an unbelievable job killer. It's going to be devastating for our state. That by itself is going to make it very difficult for people to do business in our state. And the taxes, the increase in taxes for that is going to be devastating to our state.
"On top of that, my background is I put my money up. I took the risk. I stood up for what I believed in starting businesses. And that's a whole different background than other people. But she clearly believes in higher taxes. She clearly believes in Obamacare. She clearly believes in the stimulus, and we know the stimulus has not created one private-sector job."
We'll focus on his parting blow: "The stimulus has not created one private-sector job."
By stimulus, campaign spokesman Joe Kildea confirms, Scott means the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Federal data don't break out private-sector jobs from public ones. But it's clear some Florida stimulus jobs — and in some cases, most — end up with private-sector contractors, said Don Winstead, special adviser to Gov. Charlie Crist on the stimulus. One example of private impact, he said, would be 2,951 full-time equivalent jobs created or saved under the U.S. Department of Transportation. They would largely represent private highway construction jobs, he said.
But that doesn't address whether a job may have been "created," not merely saved. So we examined a specific stimulus-funded program, Florida Back to Work. It's paid for with funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program — established by the stimulus bill — which may be spent on subsidized employment.
The program is operated by the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, which administers other benefit programs and tracks the unemployment rate. It got its federal funding in March, and reimburses employers for most of the costs of a new employee through Sept. 30. As of Sept. 10, it had paid for jobs for 5,324 new employees. It has also worked with employers to create 4,053 positions posted at employflorida.com and open to job seekers.
So, are any of those private-sector jobs?
A summary from the agency lists more than 1,000 Florida employers who have agreed to create jobs using the program. Some are public, such as the Department of Children and Families in Okaloosa County. Others are nonprofits, such as Goodwill Easter Seals of the Gulf Coast. And yes, there are plenty of private companies, for example, Riviera Beach pharmaceutical manufacturer Sancilio & Co.
Alex Sancilio, a principal in the Palm Beach County company and director of human resources, has used the Back to Work program to make 27 new hires and keep 15 full-time employees. She worked with the local work force board to get resumes, and used the money to speed up hiring.
That's how she came to hire Billy Weston as an account executive. Weston, 48, was a car salesman who had been unemployed two months, which helped qualify him for the program.
"If we hadn't had the funding, we never would have given him the time to learn the skills," she said. "We're very, very happy."
So what does Scott's campaign have to say about Weston, a guy with a job in the private sector because of the stimulus?
"No matter what sort of intellectual gymnastics used by Obama liberals, the fact is that when the stimulus was first signed, Florida's unemployment rate was 9.2 percent and today it is 11.6 percent and the state lost a net of almost 200,000 jobs," Kildea said.
So, because more jobs were lost overall than gained, that's the same as saying not one job has been created?
Not according to Rebecca Rust, senior economist for the Agency for Workforce Innovation. In fact, it's standard to talk about jobs gained, even when jobs lost may be greater.
"There's churning in the job market," she said. "Employers are adding and cutting at the same time. … Just because we have a job loss, you can't say we haven't gained any stimulus jobs. What you could say is that the job losses could have been greater."
Sean Snaith, a University of Central Florida economist who has been critical of the effect of the stimulus, agrees that saying "the stimulus has not created one private-sector job" is inaccurate. "I think that's an exaggeration of the reality, which is that it didn't do very much for private-sector hiring," he said. "But surprise, surprise, in politics there's hyperbole sometimes."
Beyond Florida, there are examples Scott ought to be familiar with. Take telecommunications company Xfone, which announced in March that it received $63 million in federal stimulus money. Scott owns about 15 percent of the company, campaign spokesman Chad Colby said. On Sept. 13, a Louisiana subsidiary, Pride Network Inc., got approval for $36 million in additional stimulus funding — money it estimates will create 1,300 jobs.
Colby says Scott's a minority investor, doesn't sit on the board, and doesn't control any operations of the company. "His position on stimulus hasn't changed," Colby said. "If the argument is that the stimulus is the only way to create jobs, it's false."
But that isn't Scott's statement. In the face of Billy Weston and now 1,300 jobs at a company Scott partly owns, his campaign still hasn't moved from its stance that "the stimulus has not created one private-sector job."
With thousands of Floridians employed because of stimulus-funded programs — not to mention jobs for a company in which Scott owns stock — we rate his statement Pants on Fire.
For more, go to politifact.com/florida.