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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Was Obama's stimulus a 'failure' or a lifesaver for the Florida budget?



The Republican National Committee this morning sought to frame President Obama’s trip to Florida later today as a celebration of failure.

“Seven Years Later, The Results Are Clear: The Stimulus Failed To Live Up To Expectations,” screams a news release, which provided a litany of examples why the stimulus didn’t perform as expected.

But as Obama visits a stimulus-injected businesss in Jacksonville, it’s worth noting what occurred 160 miles due west in those tumultuous stimulus years.

In Tallahassee, the GOP-controlled Legislature took billions in federal stimulus money to bail out the weak budget.

“A mammoth $4 billion in federal stimulus money is about to be pumped into Florida to build more roads, serve more senior meals, aid disadvantaged kids and even help fight forest fires. Without the infusion of federal cash, the state Legislature would have had to make some politically unpopular cuts to programs from the current budget, which is about $700 million in the hole and ends June 30,” wrote Marc Caputo, then of the Miami Herald, in April 2009.

“But with the extra money in hand, a special panel called the Legislative Budget Commission will likely approve all the new spending in a few hours Wednesday. Not only will the money spare legislators from the hassle of agonizing over budget cuts, it also will expand programs to help unemployed people seeking new jobs and will help cover the cost of job training and food stamps.”

The school system alone said it had created or saved 28,000 jobs.

By 2010, the state had gotten $8 billion in stimulus funds, championed by Gov. Charlie Crist, who famously hugged Obama at a stimulus rally in early 2009. The issue surfaced in the 2010 Senate race, with the hug a devastating image used by Marco Rubio.

“If it's bad for America, it can't possibly be good for your state,” Rubio said in a debate with Crist that year. “Let me tell you why the stimulus has failed. The stimulus has failed because since that famous day in February where the governor campaigned with Barack Obama on behalf of the stimulus program, 211,000 Floridians have lost their jobs.”

Replied Crist: “As governor, you've got to make tough decisions. I made the tough decision to utilize these funds to help the people of Florida. I know the unemployment rate is bad. I know the economy is tough. I understand all of that.

“If we had taken the speaker's approach, we would have had 87,000 more people on top of that 12 percent that would be unemployed in Florida today, 20,000 of those, as you indicated, school teachers who are teaching the children. That's awfully important for us to be able to continue to do that.”

[Last modified: Friday, February 26, 2016 11:12am]


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