Florida Gov. Rick Scott changes arithmetic on jobs pledge
Gov. Rick Scott said this week that Florida is making progress attracting new business but changed his arithmetic on how many jobs the state must create to meet his No. 1 campaign pledge.
Scott made it clear as a candidate last year that his plan to create 700,000 jobs in seven years was in addition to the jobs Florida would generate by itself as it recovered from the recession. At the time, state economists predicted that would be about 1 million jobs.
"Our plan,'' Scott said in an October 2010 debate, "is on top of what normal growth would be.''
But this week, the governor gave a different answer. "Your pledge was for 700,000 in addition to normal growth, wasn't it?'' Scott was asked during a meeting with the Sun Sentinel editorial board.
No, he replied, "700,000.''
The governor's position hasn't changed, said spokesman Lane Wright.
"The difference here is nobody knows what normal growth would be,'' he said. "What Gov. Scott is saying is no matter what happens around us, Florida will create 700,000 jobs in seven years.''
Robert Jarvis, a constitutional law professor at Nova Southeastern University, said the governor is "walking back the story.''
"I'm not surprised,'' he said. "He's a politician. You make changes on the fly.''
The economic outlook was better last year when Scott was running as the Republican nominee.
"It was a more optimistic picture,'' said Mark Vitner, an economist with Wells Fargo bank.
Since Scott took office in January, projections have worsened. Wells Fargo, for instance, lowered its estimates of job growth in Florida next year from 175,000 to 64,000.
"It's going to take at least 10 years for Florida to return to normal,'' Vitner said.
Scott ran on the motto "Let's get to work,'' and made job creation his No. 1 goal. He told the editorial board that Florida is in good position for economic growth.
"We've had a great year this year on tourism, and manufacturing is starting to grow,'' he said. "I think the attitude of the state, that we want business, is positive right now.''
The state has added 87,200 private sector jobs since January but lost 15,000 government positions for a net gain of 72,000, the governor said. He counts those toward his target of 700,000.
"We're going to get there,'' Scott said. "The way we're going to do it is we're going to make this a state where people want to do business.''
Economists said the 700,000 goal is doable.
"I do think we will see job growth improve, but if we beat the 700,000 jobs, it probably will not be by much,'' Vitner said. "The governor can only create an environment where jobs are created, and I do think that's what he's trying to do.''
Though politicians often try to take credit for new jobs, determining who or what is responsible is nearly impossible, said Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida.
"How do you know what the growth would have been in the absence of the policies in place?'' Snaith said. "You don't.''
Some of Scott's road map for creating jobs is not yet in place. The Legislature this year approved only a portion of the tax cuts the governor wanted.
"His policies have not really had much time to take root,'' Snaith said. "Is he sending a message, 'Come to Florida, we're business friendly?' Yeah, I think that message is out there.''