Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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

Scott, Crist TV ads contradict on middle class claims

The attacks in this 2014 campaign for Florida governor have been tit for tat.

Gov. Rick Scott says he boosted education funding, Democrat Charlie Crist says no — he did.

Crist says the economic "turnaround started at the end of my term." Scott says Florida hemorrhaged jobs under Crist and Scott's the reason behind brightening skies.

One uneven playing field is TV, into which Scott and his allies have poured millions to run campaign advertisements. Now, Crist is out with his first TV ad, featuring upbeat music and Crist standing on a Florida beach.

In "Sunshine," Crist hearkens back to his term as governor, from 2007 to 2011, reciting a list of accomplishments, including this one: "We cut property taxes for seniors and our middle class."

No sooner did we see it than the Republican Party of Florida offered an ad of its own as a rebuttal. "Fact: Crist raised taxes by $2.2 billion," it claims. "Nice try, Charlie; Crist raised taxes on the middle class by billions of dollars."

Could the miles-apart messaging be right?

Could Crist have both cut and raised taxes?

The answer, as PolitiFact Florida found out, is largely yes.

Property taxes cut

While running for governor as a Republican in 2006, Crist campaigned on lowering the property tax burden, saying the state's booming economy would make up the difference. Voters seemed to agree, approving Amendment 6 that year to lower the tax burden for low-income seniors.

The measure ended up increasing the maximum homestead exemption from $25,000 to $50,000 for seniors whose income was less than $23,414, if local governments allowed it. The exemption applied to cities and counties, not to school districts or special districts.

In 2007, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 333 to enact the amendment, and Crist signed the bill in April 2007.

Crist continued pushing for more tax cuts, this time for Amendment 1, aimed at giving longtime Florida residents a break on ever-escalating property taxes. Crist frequently said taxes would "drop like a rock" if it passed.

The amendment increased the homestead exemption, saving homeowners an average of $240 on property taxes annually. It also allowed homeowners to transfer their tax benefits to a new residence (including benefits from the 1992 Save Our Homes tax provisions), and it created a new $25,000 exemption for some business properties and limited assessment increases for non-homesteaded properties to 10 percent annually.

Despite some opposition — critics worried it would drain money for needed services — voters approved the amendment on Jan. 29, 2008, with 64 percent of the vote. The 2008 Legislature fully implemented it with Senate Bill 1588, which Crist signed June 17, 2008.

The measure was originally projected to save homeowners $1.3 billion the first year. But it's unlikely the tax benefits amounted to that much. By the end of 2008, the Great Recession had arrived, sending property values plunging.

Still, Crist's ad said he cut property taxes for "seniors and our middle class." It would be more accurate to say he cut taxes for low-income seniors and home­owners. Voters and the Legislature also had a role in the cuts. We rated his statement Mostly True.

Crist's tax increases

By 2009, because of the Great Recession and falling home values, Florida faced a $6 billion budget gap.

The Legislature's answer: implementing $2.2 billion in new taxes and fees.

The hikes included a $1 per pack cigarette tax, increased court costs and fees on things like fishing at the beach or off bridges, plus the increase in auto tag fees the Legislature repealed in 2014.

The jumps in taxes and fees was a necessary evil, lawmakers said, to deal with holes in the budget. The Republican-led Legislature tied the various increases to funding for schools and Medicaid to make sure Crist wouldn't take them out of the budget with a line-item veto. Crist signed the budget on May 29, 2009.

The Republican Party's commercial says these were increases on the middle class, but more than just middle-class Floridians were affected by the moves. Also, many Republicans in the Legislature approved the increases as well. Overall, we rated the statement Mostly True.

We'll probably hear these claims, and others, plenty between now and November. PolitiFact Florida will be there to help separate fact from fiction.

In case you were wondering, it's 112 days until Election Day.

Edited for print. Read the full versions at

The statement

"We cut property taxes for seniors and our middle class."

Charlie Crist, July 7 in a campaign commercial

The ruling

Crist supported increased homestead exemptions for seniors, although only those considered to have low income. He also supported tax cuts for property-owning residents — but not just an undefined middle class. Crist's claim doesn't specify the nuances, but property tax cuts for groups falling under those umbrellas did happen during his term. We rate the statement Mostly True.

The statement

Says Charlie Crist "raised taxes on the middle class" by $2.2 billion.

Republican Party of Florida, July 8 in a campaign commercial

The ruling

Crist did sign a budget in 2009 that included $2.2 billion in new taxes and fees, but the ideas came from the Republican-led Legislature, which made it very difficult for their Republican governor to veto the hikes. This is not specified in the GOP's commercial in any way, nor is the term "middle class" defined, although the middle class was clearly affected. We rate the statement Mostly True.

Scott, Crist TV ads contradict on middle class claims 07/14/14 [Last modified: Monday, July 14, 2014 11:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays morning after: Wilson Ramos showing glimpses of what's possible in 2018


    The real payoff for the Rays signing C Wilson Ramos last off-season will come in 2018, when he can play a full season fully recovered from right knee surgery.

    And Ramos is giving the Rays a pretty good glimpse of what that can be like.

    In Friday's 8-3 win over the Orioles, he hit a grand slam - …

  2. Buccaneers-Vikings Scouting Report: Watching Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen and Everson Griffen


    No matter how much film we study, no matter how much data we parse, we just don't know how an NFL season will unfold.

  3. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  4. Sue Carlton: Job or family when a hurricane's coming — a very Florida conundrum


    It must seem as foreign to Northerners as shoveling snow is to those of us raised in the Sunshine State: The very-Florida conundrum of having to choose between work and family — between paycheck and personal safety — when a hurricane comes.

    A hurricane helps the rest of us acknowledge the police officers, paramedics, hospital personnel, public works employees and others who stay on the job despite the storm. 
  5. After Tampa concert, Arcade Fire members party, preach politics at Crowbar


    After waiting more than a decade for Arcade Fire’s first appearance in Tampa, fans didn’t have to wait long for their second.

    DJ Windows 98, a.k.a. singer Win Butler of Arcade Fire, performed at a "Disco Town Hall" at Crowbar following the band's concert at the USF Sun Dome on Sept. 22, 2017.