Thursday, June 9, 2011

After bashing President Obama’s stimulus program, Scott includes federal money in state budget

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.

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.

In all, Florida is on pace to have spent about $24.2 billion of the $787 billion stimulus package. Florida’s share would have been higher, but Scott unexpectedly refused $2.4 billion to build a high-speed rail line linking Tampa and Orlando. Like the rejection of the rail money, he and lawmakers could have refused to spend the $370 million in federal funds.

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