Oct 7 2011

Rick Scott clarifies his definition of 700,000 jobs

It depends on what your definition of “700,000 jobs” is. That’s essentially the debate currently underway between Gov. Rick Scott and those who are parsing his statement in a debate almost a year ago, when the businessman was running for governor. Scott was asked point-blank about how his pledge to create 700,000 jobs would be measured, and he gave an answer that’s now causing a spate of stories about whether he’s changed his view following a more recent interview.

From the debate in question:

Moderator: You have proposed what you call a 7-7-7 plan — seven years, 700,000 jobs, seven steps in seven years to 700,000 jobs, but some state economists have said that if there is an economic recovery, no matter who’s governor, the economy will actually generate more than those 700,000 jobs in just four years. How do you respond to that.

Scott: [It was Scott’s first question, so he did the usually thank you’s first.] So, our plan is seven steps to 700,000 jobs. And that plan is on top of what normal growth would be. [Emphasis added.]

Scott backed off that metric in an interview with the Sun Sentinel’s editorial board. And several news media outlets have now pointed out that it appears to be different than what he said in the debate (examples are here and here); PolitiFact Florida rated it a “full flop.”

So after a week of getting hammered on the question of what he did (or, in the view of the governor’s office, didn’t) say, Scott decided to “set the record straight” on the promise that was at the heart of his campaign for election, and against which he will be measured when he runs for re-election in 2014. (At least as far as what the state is on pace for, since there will still be more than three years to go before the full seven years are up.) Scott took the unusual step of issuing a five-paragraph statement to the press Friday around lunchtime.

In the statement, Scott tweaks — or clarifies, if you prefer — the idea that the 700,000 jobs would be “on top of what normal growth would be” and says he meant that it would be “regardless of what the economy might otherwise gain or lose.” The governor also says that forecasts, like the ones the question in the debate was focused on, are inherently unreliable.

Instead of focusing on hypotheticals, I’m focused on what I know will be accomplished through my 7-7-7 plan — the creation of 700,000 jobs over seven years regardless of what the economy might otherwise gain or lose. Floridians will judge me not on what an economist in Tallahassee predicts, but on actual job growth each month. [Emphasis not added.]

If there was any remaining doubt, Scott will clearly argue during the 2014 campaign that he meant 700,000 jobs, and that the number of jobs added since he took office has the state on the right track. And his Democratic opponent will almost certainly argue that he should be held to a higher number than that, and the state isn’t on the right track to add that many jobs. To an extent, the argument is likely an academic one; many voters will decide for themselves which pledge they hold Scott to before they cast their ballots.

After the jump, see Scott’s answer to the original question and the statement he issued today.

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The News Service of Florida