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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactChecking Perry

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry will once again seek the presidency. Perry, who announced his candidacy on his website today, is no stranger to our site, as we fact-checked his statements during the 2012 cycle when he campaigned for the Republican nomination. Our file on the governor includes items on immigration, jobs, taxes, the environment and government regulation.

Immigration. Our most recent fact-check on the former governor concerned Perry’s boast that border apprehensions dropped 74 percent in Texas after he sent state law enforcement to the border last year. He has made the claim several times in speeches on border security. We found that Perry takes too much credit for the sharp decline in apprehensions of individuals illegally crossing into the Rio Grande Valley. News reports and migration experts say several other factors were largely responsible, including increased enforcement in Mexico on migrants from Central America and a federal advertising campaign deterring migration. The federal government also added 265 border patrol agents in that region during that time.

In August 2014, Perry made another exaggeration on border security, claiming that more than 203,000 “illegal aliens” arrested in Texas since September 2008 “are responsible for over 3,000 homicides and almost 8,000 sexual assaults.” He relied on an analysis of federal data by the Texas Department of Public Safety, which told us the 203,000 individuals are foreign-born people who live in the U.S. legally and illegally. They also have been charged with those homicides and sexual assaults over their lifetimes, not necessarily convicted.

Jobs. Texas created plenty of jobs while Perry was governor, but he has made several misleading statements on this topic. In his last speech as governor on January 15, he said Texas had created 1.4 million jobs since December 2007 while the rest of the United States lost 400,000 jobs. The rest of the U.S. actually gained more than 500,000 jobs during that time period, according to the job-growth measure used by most economists and the one used by Perry for other state job figures in the same speech. (Perry made this same claim at the Florida Economic Growth Summit on June 2.)

In June 2012, Perry falsely claimed that Obama had “overseen the loss of 1.4 million jobs.” He was referring to job losses in only the 34 states that had lost jobs since Obama was inaugurated. He ignored the 16 states — including Texas — that had gained jobs. The total job loss in all 50 states was about 552,000 through May 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In May 2014, Perry said he was “really worried about those 90 million people that are out of work.” But that figure — which represents everyone not in the labor force — includes retired seniors, high-school students, college students, stay-at-home parents and only 6 million people who “want a job,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He also said there were “more women out of the workforce now than at any time in our history.” Not true. Women’s labor force participation rate was more than one-and-a-half times what it was in 1948.

Taxes. Perry said in March that he “never” raised taxes in his 14 years as governor of Texas. But he did increase taxes on businesses, cigarettes, fireworks, diesel equipment and insurance. A spokesman for Perry told us he never raised taxes “on net,” but Perry didn’t include that qualifier, which would only discount some of the tax hikes that were paired with cuts during his time in office.

Back in 2011 while campaigning for president, Perry proposed a flat tax system, under which, he said, “taxes will be cut across all income groups in America.” But an analysis of the plan by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that many lower-income earners and families would see higher taxes.

Environment. Perry said this year that Texas’ carbon dioxide emissions went down due to “incentive-based regulation” during his governorship. But a drop in manufacturing jobs and federal energy policies on wind energy (as opposed to state policies) are more likely to be the reason.

His recent statements mirror claims he made in 2011, when he said that states could do a better job of managing air quality than Environmental Protection Agency regulation. Both then and now, Perry claimed Texas had lowered nitrogen oxide levels, but he counted only “point source” emissions largely from industrial and power plants, and excluded emissions from vehicles. In 2011, he also claimed that “we cleaned up our air in Texas more than any other state, during the decade of the 2000s.” But that’s based on limited data, too — statistics compiled by Texas officials, who only counted measures from Houston and Dallas, leaving out cities where there was less improvement.

Regulation. In October 2011, Perry claimed his energy plan would “create another 250,000 jobs by getting the EPA out of the way.” But the EPA was not in the way. In fact, the industry report cited by Perry said those 250,000 jobs would be created if current regulations were not changed.

In August 2011, he told an audience at the Iowa State Fair that the Obama administration wanted farmers to get a commercial driver’s license to ride tractors across a public road. Not true. Five days earlier, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a press release saying it had “no intention to propose new regulations governing the transport of agricultural products.” Instead, it issued a guidance “designed to make sure states clearly understand the common sense exemptions that allow farmers, their employees, and their families to accomplish their day-to-day work and transport their products to market.”

One more on regulation: In February of this year, Perry claimed that government regulation cost American families $15,000 a year. But that figure comes from a conservative group’s admittedly rough calculation of regulatory costs without factoring in any savings.

There’s more in our full file on Perry. We’ll continue to follow his statements, as he joins the crowded presidential field.

— Lori Robertson