Florida Gov. Rick Scott campaigned against President Obama's "failed stimulus" program — yet the freshman politician kept nearly $370 million of the federal cash in the Florida budget he signed last week.
Scott's decision to keep the stimulus money stands out in a year when the governor touted record budget vetoes of up to $615 million. He emphasized the vetoes of “wasteful” spending at a Thursday event that featured a campaign-style “Promises Made, Promises Kept” banner.
But as he ran for office last summer, Scott said he “would fight all the stimulus money.” He also told reporters “I would have figured out how to balance the budget without it.”
When asked Tuesday why he appeared to reverse himself by keeping stimulus money, Scott didn’t specifically answer.
“I think the stimulus was not good for our state, made us more dependent on the federal government,” he said, echoing a budget-signing letter he issued last week. “I think that we’ve got to watch how we spend money. As you know, in the budget, I focused very much on how we spend our money, stopping the growth of debt in our state and making our state less dependent on the federal government.”
The stimulus money Scott and Republican legislators approved touch every corner of the state: $290 million to improve electronic medical records, $4.2 million to aid disadvantaged children, $3.2 million for fighting wildfires, $12.5 million for drug courts, $8.6 million for county health departments, $1 million to fight infectious diseases, and $4.4 million to help public defenders and prosecutors.
The bulk of the stimulus, called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, was appropriated by the Legislature in previous years. The act is specifically referenced 66 times in the budget.
For 61 of the line items, the Legislature appropriated a specific amount of stimulus money that totals almost $343 million.
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