SAN MARCOS, Texas (Nexstar) — Gov. Greg Abbott asserted numerous claims to make his case for Texas in his “State of the State” address. Independent reviews of third-party sources show most of those factual claims were true. However, some claims lacked context and could be misleading. Here are some of the highlights.
“Since I became Governor, Texas has added more than 1.9 million new jobs.”
Federal data reports slightly fewer jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas added 1.5 million jobs in Abbott’s tenure. About 12.5 million Texans were employed in January 2015. In December, about 14 million Texans were employed.
“We’re also No. 1 for economic development, No. 1 for exports, No. 1 for Fortune 500 company headquarters.“
True. Texas exports far more than any other state. The U.S. Census Bureau reports Texas recorded almost $486 billion in exports last year, dwarfing the $186 billion from second place California.
Texas is also home to 53 Fortune 500 companies, just two more than second place New York.
“Businesses large & small have made Texas the No. 1 state for business EVERY YEAR that I’ve been Governor.“
Needs more context. This all comes down to which source is ranking top states for business and the methodologies used to rank them. Abbott’s office cited Chief Executive Magazine’s continued ranking of Texas as the No. 1 state for business.
However, other outlets’ state rankings have placed Texas in varying positions. A 2023 business analysis by Forbes Advisor ranked Texas 34th for starting a new business based on 18 key metrics; meanwhile, a 2022 CNBC report ranked the Lone Star State fifth based on 10 different analysis points.
While Chief Executive Magazine awarded the top prize to Texas, that ranking is not the same across the boarding, depending on who’s doing the analysis.
“Per-student funding is at an all time high.”
Partly true. While Texas’ per-student funding has increased more than previous years’ allotments, research database Education Data Initiative found Texas’ K-12 schools are ranked 39th in funding and 44th in spending nationally.
Education Data Initiative’s research found K-12 education funding in Texas amounts to nearly $67 billion, breaking down to more than $12,000 per student. However, the Texas American Federation of Teachers said while the raw dollar amount is higher, it does not take into consideration inflation.
“Texas can both be spending more per student than ever before, and that amount can also be inadequate given that increases in the cost of education have outpaced the growth in public education funding,” Texas AFT officials wrote in response to Abbott’s per-pupil funding claim.
“Many public schools in Texas are excellent. In fact, we are No. 1 for National Blue Ribbon Schools.“
Needs more context. Texas did have more National Blue Ribbon schools than any other state last year. The U.S. Department of Education awards that designation to schools with the highest achievement on state tests, highest graduation rates, and most performance improvements. The department recognized 274 public schools with the award last year. Texas boasted 31 of them — two more than second-place California.
But, only 28% of Texas public schools achieved the highest accountability rating from the Texas Education Agency. A majority of schools earned a “B” or a “C.” Those rankings are used to quantify a school’s performance based on students’ academic achievement, test scores, and year-over-year improvement.
“We have one of the best high school graduation rates in America.”
True. The National Center for Education Statistics reports Texas ranks in the top eight states for high school graduation rates at about 90%. Iowa and Alabama tie for first at 92%. The national average is 86%.
“In just two years, more than 100 people were murdered in Houston by criminals who were let out on multiple felony bonds.”
Sources report conflicting data. Crime Stoppers Houston reports at least 90 people were killed by people out on bond between 2014 and January 2021. A Houston Chronicle analysis identified 221 people who were murdered by a suspect out on bond between 2013 and 2020. Fox 26 Houston reports 155 people have been killed by people out on bond in an unspecified timeframe. The problem exists, yet it is unclear what data the governor references in the timeframe above.
Harris County refuted the governor targeting these comments toward them.
“Sometimes people forget that fact that in America people are still innocent until proven guilty and being held ahead of trial is not supposed to be punitive,” Scott Spiegel with Harris County Precinct Two said. “Harris County actually did something to address the issue of bail by requiring ten percent down for certain violent crime since the bail industry had started getting people out on one to two percent down.”
“This past year, the U.S. set a record for the most illegal crossings ever.“
Mostly true, but needs context. The United States saw more than 2.76 million migrants cross the U.S. border during fiscal year 2021-22, per data from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. That figure topped the 1.96 million migrants who entered illegally during FY21, per the CBP.
However, estimates from the Department of Homeland Security anticipate closer to four million people illegally crossed the border in 2000, per NPR reporting. The difference then came down to the number of migrants apprehended.
Department officials said immigration authorities caught a significantly smaller percentage of people who crossed the border in 2000, with approximately 1.6 million migrants apprehended and an estimated two million migrants who were not caught.
NPR also reported the demographics and flow of migrants had changed since 2000, when more than 98% of those entering the country illegally were coming from Mexico.
Currently, a larger share of migrants include families and children who are seeking asylum and other protections from a multitude of countries, including Guatemala, Honduras, as well as growing percentages from South America, the Caribbean and Africa.
“Texas is the only state in the history of America to build its own border wall.“
Misleading. Texas has built 130 miles of border barriers across its 1,254 mile border with Mexico, 58 miles of which is only concertina wire, Texas Military Department’s Major General Thomas Suelzer told Border Report. Texas has only built 1.7 miles of steel wall. The Texas Facilities Commission has awarded contracts to build more border barriers totaling $855 million.
In December, Arizona’s Republican governor Doug Ducey began constructing at least three miles of a makeshift border wall with shipping containers. The federal government deemed those barriers illegal.
“Fentanyl poisoning has now become the leading killer of Americans between 18-49.“
Needs more context. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not been able to confirm nor deny whether fentanyl poisoning is the top cause of death within this age range.
A PolitiFact Texas report found the leading causes of death among all Americans in 2020 were heart disease, cancer and COVID-19, based on CDC data. Provisional data from 2021 showed those same Top three, per PolitiFact Texas.
More than 56,000 people ages 18 and older died due to synthetic opioid-related incidents, per the CDC’s online mortality database. That figure rose in 2021, with almost 70,000 people ages 18 and older dying due to synthetic opioid-related incidents.
However, a CDC spokesperson was unable to confirm to PolitiFact Texas whether it was the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18-45.
Fentanyl-involved deaths are classified as synthetic opioid-related deaths and make up about 90% of the synthetic opioids category, the CDC told PolitiFact Texas. In 2021, “accidents (unintentional injuries)” marked the top cause of death for those ages 18-45, per a CDC spokesperson.
“If one assumes that the other synthetic narcotics category for those 18 to 45 is 90% fentanyl, then one can argue that unintentional fentanyl overdose is likely the leading cause in that age group. However, because we don’t have exact numbers of fentanyl deaths for that age category, we cannot say for certain that this is accurate.”-CDC spokesperson, in an email to PolitiFact Texas
The CDC spokesperson also added overdose-related deaths comprise four different classifications: accidents, suicide, homicide and undetermined.