Charlie Crist unveiled his "Fair Shot Florida" plan to grow middle-class jobs on Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale, repeating his familiar criticisms of Gov. Rick Scott for rejecting billions of federal dollars for high-speed rail expansion and for the state's failure to expand Medicaid.
Expanding Medicaid "will create as many as 120,000 new high-quality jobs," he said. PolitiFact rated Crist's earlier claim that the expansion would create 63,000 jobs as Half True. The 63,000 figure comes from a White House study chastising states such as Florida for failing to expand Medicaid. The Florida Hospital Association's most recent analysis in 2013 predicts 120,000 jobs created within a decade; the association supports expansion. Meanwhile, Moody's predicted between 10,000 and 30,000 jobs.
Scott initially opposed Medicaid expansion but later said he supported but didn't advocate for it and the Legislature rejected it.
Much of Crist's plan focused on his promises to restore education cuts under Scott. Crist promised if elected he would return per pupil K-12 funding to $7,126 — the amount in 2007-08 when Crist was governor. Crist also promised to reverse Scott's cuts to Bright Futures. He wasn't specific on how he'd pay for it, but pointed to the state's almost $3 billion surplus.
Crist was asked by a reporter to respond to a comment by Scott campaign chairman Sen. John Thrasher that the state lost 832,000 jobs during Crist's tenure and unemployment tripled.
Crist said that was "trash talk" by his opponent and that he didn't cause the global economic meltdown.
PolitiFact Florida previously rated a similar statement by Scott about job losses and unemployment under Crist as Half True. Though Scott has correctly cited the numbers, economists have repeatedly said that Crist didn't cause the recession, which was largely as a result of the housing market crisis.
Crist's policy ideas also included expanding career and technical education programs at community colleges; loan forgiveness for students in high-demand fields; helping students refinance their debt; and free tuition for teachers who get master's degrees in STEM subjects.
Public input on carbon rules
A coalition of 17 owners of Florida-based companies that specialize in solar energy on Tuesday urged Scott and the Public Service Commission to extend the public comment period on how the state will comply with federal rules limiting carbon pollution from power plants. The PSC announced July 10 that the public would have until Friday to comment on the new carbon rules, but limited the distribution of the notice so few were aware of it.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 21 percent of the electricity in Florida comes from coal-fired power plants, and the state's plants emit more pollution than those of any other U.S. state, except Texas and Pennsylvania. Florida households consume 40 percent more electricity than the U.S. average. Scott, who denied the existence of human-induced climate change when he first ran in 2010, has refused to comment on the issue this election cycle.
Regulating medical marijuana
The Florida Medical Association has come out against Amendment 2, a ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana, taking the position that the amendment will open the door to untrained doctors prescribing marijuana for medical uses.
The FMA position, however, is silent to the fact that if the amendment passes, the Legislature and state regulators will have the power to regulate the use of cannabis. The state Department of Health is designated as the regulating body under the amendment. It is currently undergoing a rigorous rulemaking process to regulate low-THC cannabis, which the Legislature legalized in the spring.
Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.