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PolitiFact Florida On The State's Low Wages; Nursing Shortage

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Did Gov. Rick Scott really brag about the state's low wages during business trips? And is there a critical shortage of nurses in Florida? WUSF's Steve Newborn gets to the bottom of these claims with Allison Graves of PolitiFact Florida.

The election for governor is still a year away, but we're already hearing claims from the campaign trail. One of them came from Democratic candidate and former Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine. His inauguration speech contained this claim:

In a Nov. 1, 2017, speech announcing his run, Levine, a Democrat, criticized the governor for being so proud of the state’s minimum wage that he’s advertising it.

"When workers are paid $8.10 an hour, and our current governor runs ads bragging about it — it’s callous and it’s wrong," Levine said.

Florida’s minimum wage is $8.10 and will rise 15 cents in January 2018.

Has Scott run ads bragging about it? Let's check in with PolitiFact Florida:

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel

The radio ad in question comes from Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private economic development arm chaired by Scott. The ad did boast about Florida’s lack of income tax and Scott’s efforts to cut regulations. But Levine went too far in saying Scott bragged about the state’s minimum wage.

Ad doesn’t explicitly talk about Florida’s minimum wage


Levine’s spokesman Christian Ulvert sent two columns by opinion writers and one article that discussed radio ads in California that coincided with a business recruitment trip by Scott in May 2016.

The Enterprise Florida ad talked about lost jobs that would come if California approved a $15 minimum wage. When the ad brought up Florida, the focus was on lower taxes and less regulation, not Florida’s minimum wage explicitly.

"Seven hundred thousand. That’s how many California jobs will be lost thanks to the politicians raising the minimum wage. Ready to leave California? Go to Florida instead — no state income tax, and Gov. Scott has cut regulations. Now Florida is adding 1 million jobs, not losing them."  

We didn’t hear back from Scott by our deadline. When we last looked at the ad in 2016, a Scott spokeswoman said the ad wasn’t Scott bragging about low wages, but rather him pointing out differences between the states’ economies.

"He has never said he is proud of how low our wages are," said Jackie Schutz Zeckman, now Scott’s chief of staff.

Levine’s spokesman disagreed, arguing the the "intent and purpose" of the ad, as interpreted by newspaper editorial writers and columnists, was centered around wages.

"The governor has bragged about Florida's low wages a number of times and allowed tax dollars to be used to highlight that fact in California," Ulvert said. "All facts."

Ulvert also pointed to the state’s decision to join the lawsuit against Miami Beach’s minimum wage ordinance that aimed to increase the city starting wage to $13.31 by 2021. (The ordinance was struck down in Miami-Dade circuit court in March.)

Levine put words in Scott's mouth, when at most there is an implication. We rate his claim Mostly False.

Moving on to one of the Republican candidates for governor, Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam of Bartow. He has been repeating this factoid on the campaign trail:

"The No. 1 job vacancy in Florida every month for seven years has been nursing," Putnam said in October in a fish camp in Fleming Island.

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling on that claim:

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel

Data from the Department of Economic Opportunity shows that registered nurses have consistently topped the lists of monthly online job advertisements and annual job openings.

Department spokeswoman Karen Smith told PolitiFact Florida the top online job advertisement in Florida has been registered nurses every month for the past seven years. We asked for a sample of that data and got a year’s worth of monthly reports for Help Wanted OnLine, a tool used by the Department to measure real-time labor demand.

These reports are posted on the DEO’s site and updated monthly.

The most recent month of data (October 2017) shows there were 13,619 online ads placed for registered nurses. The second-most popular ads sought retail salespersons at 7,207 postings, followed by "first-line supervisors" for retail sales workers with 6,467 ads.

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel

Mary Lou Brunell is the executive director of the Florida Center for Nursing, which was set up in 2001 by the Florida Legislature to address the nursing shortages in the state.

In recent years, she said the problem has been exacerbated by a lack of students studying to become nurses, a shortage of faculty teaching future students, and an aging workforce and state population.

"You put all those pieces together, and it’s just not getting better," said Dianne Morrison-Beedy, the former dean at the University of South Florida College of Nursing.

The nursing workforce is also aging. According to a 2017 report from the Florida Center for Nursing, 44 percent of registered nurses are over the age of 50 and expected to retire in the next 5 to 10 years.

The economic turnaround in the late 2000s also decreased the number of nurses in the workforce. When the economy plummeted in 2008, many people trained in nursing but not working returned to their job or delayed retirement. As the economy improved, there were once again more vacancies because those nurses returned home or retired.

We rate this claim True.

Copyright 2017 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.