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PolitiFact Florida: Adam Putnam On Vo-Tech Pay, Border Troops

May 18, 2018

Agriculture Commissioner - and candidate for governor - Adam Putnam is claiming in his push for vocational-technical training that welders come out of tech schools making $28 an hour.

And his main challenger for the Republican nomination claims when Putnam was in Congress, he opposed putting troops on the country's southern border.  WUSF's Steve Newborn takes a closer look at those claims with Allison Graves of PolitiFact Florida.

Putnam is making the rounds of the hustings, promoting his vocational-technical plan. During a recent stop in Orlando, he made this point:

"Nobody is telling our students that welders are coming out of their tech schools at $28 an hour," Putnam said at the Florida Family Policy Council forum in Orlando on May 5. "They're not telling them that pipefitters are making six figures while their friends are getting a degree in European art history with $70,000 in student loan debt."

Is that true? Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:


Putnam said welders coming out of technical school make $28 an hour. Putnam spokeswoman Amanda Bevis pointed to several welder job postings in Florida that offer $17 to $30, or $27 to $35 an hour, depending on experience.

Reaching the top end of the salary range, however, requires additional training and certifications. It isn’t the typical salary for someone paid right out of 12 to 15 months or the typical training at trade schools.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers is $40,240 — about $19 an hour.

The top 10 percent of welders earn $63,170, which is roughly $30.37.

Debbie Hoy, program adviser at Erwin Technical College in Hillsborough County, said prospective welders who complete their program can make anywhere between $12 an hour up to $20 an hour right away.

And at Manatee Technical College, a person who completed welding school can expect to make $15 to $20 starting out, said Gary Martin, a welding instructor. Once in the field, he said, there is the potential to make $28 an hour after completing additional certifications. For example, a welder can complete an education certification or engineering certification.

Jack Jarrell, the business manager of Iron Workers Local 397 Union in Tampa, said if a person completes four years of training with the union, they can make up to $32 an hour. (Benefits not included, the pay is around $24.50 an hour).

Going the union route is different than the technical schooling Putnam referred to. Still, Jarrell emphasized that the pay rate really depends on the industry someone enters after training, as some industries can afford to pay people more.

It’s unlikely someone just starting out as a welder or pipefitter will make as much as Putnam said. That said, people who work in the industry say it’s possible to make that much depending on the industry you choose and the amount of training you get.

Putnam's figures are overstated for young workers in those fields. We rate this claim Half True.

In keeping with our theme of Adam Putnam, one of his main opponents for governor, Northeast Florida Congressman Ron DeSantis, said this about his fellow Republican from Bartow in a chat May 2 with radio host John Fredericks.

"Well, we are very different in our approach to illegal immigration," DeSantis said of Putnam. "When he was in the Congress, he supported the McCain amnesty, he even supported the gang of eight Schumer-Obama amnesty when he was ag commissioner. He didn’t even have to vote on it but he supported it. He opposed bringing troops, putting troops on our southern border using the National Guard."

That was more than 10 years ago, but does DeSantis have a valid point? Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

Whether Putnam supported "amnesty" is a complicated question. We previously rated that attack as Half True, because he has supported some initiatives that would benefit undocumented immigrants (including the 2013 "Gang of Eight" legislation) and others that wouldn’t have.

For this fact-check, we wanted to know if Putnam opposed "putting troops on the southern border using the National Guard."

We learned that Putnam did take a similar vote in 2004, but experts said the underlying policy — putting troops on the border — was not a major policy consideration in the early 2000s. More importantly, though, the talking point doesn’t account for Putnam’s general support of Trump’s immigration policy.

Putnam’s 2004 vote

Putnam served in the U.S. House for 10 years before he started two terms as agriculture commissioner in 2011.

DeSantis’s claim is rooted in Putnam’s 2004 vote against an amendment to the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act.

The amendment authorized the defense secretary to assign members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to assist the Department of Homeland Security with border patrol duties, in some circumstances.

The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va., did not say anything about the National Guard, as DeSantis said.

The amendment ended up passing with a vote of 231-191. Putnam and 19 other Republican lawmakers voted against it (Putnam being the only Republican from Florida to vote no).

We asked Putnam spokeswoman Amanda Bevis why Putnam voted against the amendment. Instead, she reiterated Putnam’s support for the White House’s policy on immigration, which as of April includes sending National Guard troops to the southern border.

"Adam Putnam supports President Trump’s actions to secure our borders, including activating troops for this critical purpose," she said. "Without strong border security to prevent illegal aliens from unlawfully entering our country, the lives of American citizens are endangered."

What the claim leaves out is Putnam’s overall support for Trump’s immigration policy. While Putnam has not commented on Trump’s specific plan to send National Guard to the border, he is generally enthusiastic about Trump’s approach to immigration.

It’s also worth noting that as a member of Congress, Putnam took several votes in favor of border security measures and funding enforcement.

We rate this claim Half True.