Politics & Government

Florida Gov. Crist defends stimulus package support

Gov. Charlie Crist, who broke ranks with Republican leaders to support President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan, received a standing ovation Wednesday from about 250 people at a town hall-style meeting in Fort Lauderdale.

He heard from a 50-year-old woman with an Ivy League education who is unemployed, a waterfront condominium owner interested in solar power and a taxpayer concerned about the largest government spending plan in U.S. history. Later, the governor met with West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel, who handed him a wish list of city upgrades totaling more than $119 million.

The federal legislation amounts to $787 billion in federal spending and tax cuts. Florida could receive as much as $12.2 billion for healthcare, education and roads.

"I'm enormously grateful that it passed, and I know it's going to help our fellow Floridians in a substantial way," Crist said. "It could not have come at a better time."

In response to a question from Broward School Board Chairwoman Maureen Dinnen about school funding, Crist said Florida could receive $3.5 billion. One possible hitch, however, is that states that have cut school spending will have to get waivers from the government to get additional money.

"We've helped this administration a little bit get this package passed, and Florida voted for him, so our asking for a waiver, I think, will be looked on favorably by the administration," Crist said.

Many Republicans say the legislation was rushed through Congress with wasteful spending that will not create jobs. A few GOP governors are even considering refusing the money.

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