A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Boyd’s Ad on Florida Jobs Stretches Truth

Democratic Rep. Allen Boyd of Florida is running a TV ad falsely accusing his primary opponent of having "killed jobs," while exaggerating his own record for creating jobs.

The ad, titled “Job Killer,” has been airing since May 20 in Boyd’s North Florida district.

Job Killer?

Rep. Boyd’s ad goes too far when it charges that his rival, state Sen. Al Lawson, “killed” transportation and hospital jobs when he voted for the fiscal year 2011 state budget.

  • The ad says Lawson “killed 8,000 more construction jobs by raiding the transportation fund.” This is simply false. For one thing, the budget Lawson supported actually increased the Department of Transportation’s capital budget by $400 million, to $5.8 billion, according to the Department of Transportation budget office. That will support a lot of construction jobs gained, not "killed." The same bill also would have diverted $160 million out of the state Transportation Trust Fund, which in theory might have offset some of the job gain. But Florida Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the trust fund diversion, so Boyd can’t accurately claim that Lawson "killed" any jobs.
  • Boyd also claims that Lawson “killed thousands of health care jobs by cutting aid to hospitals.” Lawson did vote for a budget bill that included a 7 percent reduction in the Medicaid reimbursement rates paid to hospitals. The ad cites a report by the University of Florida saying thousands of health care jobs may be affected statewide. But those jobs haven’t been "killed" yet: The new fiscal year doesn’t start until July 1. Furthermore, Boyd’s mostly rural district may be largely spared, thanks to a provision in the House-Senate conference report — supported by Lawson and others — which exempts rural hospitals from the reduction.

Job Creator?

Boyd touts himself as a “job creator," citing his vote for the $862 billion economic stimulus package. He has a legitimate case that he voted to create jobs. But the ad goes too far when it says he is “bringing us thousands of high-tech jobs with new broadband service.”

The Broadband Technology Opportunities Program will undoubtedly create tens of thousands of jobs — nationwide. But the number likely to be brought to "us" in Boyd’s district is far less. Boyd’s campaign cites an announced $30.1 million grant to expand access to high-speed Internet in 14 North Florida counties. That will create about 100 direct jobs within five years, according to the North Florida Broadband Authority. Even adding in secondary effects, the total number of jobs created directly and indirectly would be between 217 and 360, based on the methodology used in a report, “Estimating the Economic Impact of the Broadband Stimulus Plan,” by Raul Katz of the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information at Columbia Business School. That’s a far cry from "thousands of high-tech jobs."

Boyd also claims that “his smart grid program will create thousands more jobs.” The ad cites a Tallahassee Democrat report, which says that “nearly $20 million of federal stimulus money has been awarded to the cities of Tallahassee and Quincy, and the Talquin Electric Cooperative to develop Smart Grid technologies — a broad range of technology that promotes energy-saving choices for consumers.” In e-mail messages to us, Talquin officials said the city expected its project to create 25 direct jobs and Quincy officials expected 53 direct jobs. The City of Tallahassee did not have a job creation estimate to provide. In order to estimate the total number of jobs that the smart grid grants will bring to the 2nd congressional district, we interviewed Heidi Garrett-Peltier, a research fellow at the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She provided us with a method for estimating the number of jobs that could be created in Boyd’s district, and the estimate falls far short of “thousands more jobs.”

In an e-mail, Garrett-Peltier explained: “The job estimate for [the] smart grid we’ve produced internally is 15.222 jobs per $1 million spending. This includes 5.0 jobs directly created, plus 5.1 indirect jobs, plus 5.122 [induced jobs].” The three smart grid projects in Boyd’s district have a total project value of $38,923,190, so they could create a total of 592.5 direct, indirect and induced jobs.

One last point to consider when weighing the question of who’s best at creating jobs: While Boyd and Congress were able to increase the national debt to spend the money needed to create jobs through the stimulus package, Lawson and the Florida Legislature needed to cut funding or raise revenues in order to meet the state’s constitutional requirement to balance the budget. Each lawmaker had to address substantive issues within two different sets of rules, making any direct comparison virtually impossible.

— by Michael Morse