Is this the beginning of a Florida bitch fight?
FL Sen. Rick Scott implores states 'reject and return' stimulus money. Gov. Ron DeSantis wants more
PALM BEACH, Florida - U.S. Sen. Rick Scott has a message for states and cities poised to receive a collective $360 billion from the American Rescue Act stimulus package: Send it back.
Scott's call to reject money that polls show is popular nationally, even among Republicans, has flared tension between Scott and another Florida GOP leader, Gov. Ron DeSantis.
In an open letter to governors and mayors, sent moments after the U.S. House on Wednesday approved the $1.9 trillion bill, Scott called it “massive, wasteful and non-targeted," urging states to follow his lead and send a message to Congress to “quit recklessly spending other people’s money.”
"By rejecting and returning any unneeded funds, as well as funds unrelated to COVID-19, you would be taking responsible action to avoid wasting scarce tax dollars,” he wrote. “After all, every dollar in this package is borrowed.”
Scott, a former governor of Florida, called his request “simple and common sense,” adding that money slated for state and local governments is “wholly unrelated to responding to the pandemic.”
Scott has a history of bucking federal funds. As governor, he refused to allow Florida to accept Obamacare-related money to expand Medicaid health care coverage.
His letter comes as polls show the legislation is extremely popular. A Morning Consult/Politico poll found 69% of U.S. voters said the "package is the right amount" or "doesn’t go far enough," including 54% of Republicans.
The latter includes, apparently, Scott's successor, DeSantis, who complained Florida should be getting a bigger piece of the pie.
While Scott was calling for rejection of the assistance, DeSantis announced he has big plans for the stimulus money. And he may well be blaming Scott, at least partly, for not getting Florida more of it.
“The Senate didn’t correct the fact that Florida is getting a lot less than what we would be entitled to on a per capita basis,” DeSantis, in an apparent jab at Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio, said Monday at a press conference.
The polarization on spending comes amid rumors that both DeSantis and Scott have eyes on the White House in 2024. At odds on numerous issues, DeSantis has for almost a year blamed Scott for the massive failures of the state's unemployment system, which was developed and implemented when Scott served as governor.
More:Scrap or salvage? State lawmakers weigh future of Florida’s unemployment system
Still, at Monday's press conference, DeSantis did not mention a word about using the stimulus money to help jobless individuals or small businesses devastated by the pandemic.
Instead, DeSantis said he would like to see some of the money go toward his Resilient Florida Plan to fight flooding and sea level rise.
“I think that will be a game changer,” he said. “It’s infrastructure we would have needed to have done anyways.”
DeSantis also lamented the fact that stimulus money will be disseminated to states based on things like unemployment rates instead of population, meaning Florida will be penalized for having a stronger economy than some other states, he said.