A top Florida Democrat claims that the state's Republican U.S. Sen.-elect Marco Rubio is changing stories on budget earmarks.
Rubio has become one of the leading advocates of a proposal from Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., to seek a nonbinding ban on budget earmarks among Republicans in the chamber. "I think earmarks are bad for our country," Rubio said in an interview before Election Day.
But Rubio didn't always think that way, says former Barack Obama Florida director Steven Schale.
"I don't remember Rubio disagreeing with earmarks in the Florida Legislature," Schale posted on Twitter on Nov. 15 in reply to a story about Rubio supporting an earmark ban. In a separate post, Schale offered his evidence. "Re: (Marco) Rubio's support of earmark ban: In 2002 alone (a bad budget year in Florida), he requested 37 earmarks worth $43 million."
In this case, we wanted to check Schale's math.
Rubio served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2000 to 2008, the last two years as House speaker. During his U.S. Senate campaign, Rubio was criticized by independent candidate Gov. Charlie Crist for requesting millions of dollars in pork projects, which Crist said he had to veto. We've rated two specific claims when it comes to Rubio and earmarks before — we called a claim that he supported $800,000 to replace the turf at a field where he played flag football Half True and a claim that he tried to insert $1.5 million into the budget for a rowing institute Pants on Fire!
Florida's version of the earmark was something called a Community Budget Issue Request — a budget request legislators made for local projects. They had to file their request ahead of the budget planning process and attach their name to every request. The Legislature stopped the practice in 2009, the year after Rubio left office.
In 2002, Rubio's third year, the Florida House requested $1.5 billion in Community Budget Issue Requests, according to data kept by the state. To put that in perspective, the state budget that Gov. Jeb Bush signed that year totaled $50 billion, and legislators had been warned of a tight budget. (They actually were summoned back to Tallahassee to slash $1 billion from the budget in December 2001 to keep the state from going in the red.)
Rubio's member budget requests for 2002 are archived on a state website, which confirms Schale's statement.
Rubio requested funding for 37 projects totaling $43,697,787. Here are some of the highlights:
• $7.67 million, requested by Jackson Health System, for inpatient and outpatient health care services to people with HIV/AIDS, including medications, psycho-social counseling, education and case management.
• $5 million, requested by Miami-Dade County, for an elevated, automated people-mover system connecting three elevated stations in front of the Miami International Airport passenger terminal with the planned Miami Intermodal Center.
• $5 million, requested by Miami-Dade County Empowerment Trust, for a federally designated "empowerment zone" that targets county, state, and federal resources to stimulate economic development in distressed, low-income areas.
• $2.25 million, requested by the city of Miami Springs, to eliminate recurring flood conditions through stormwater drainage improvements.
• $2 million, requested by Achievement & Rehabilitation Centers Inc., for ARC Broward Inc., to provide intensive therapeutic and behavioral intervention for children aged 5-12 with severe autism or related disorders.
• $1.5 million, requested by the South Florida Water Management District, for construction to permanently mitigate the recurring flood threat.
• $1.5 million, requested by the city of West Miami, to reduce a wastewater collection system budget deficit.
• $1.3 million, requested by the city of South Miami, to complete an upgrade to the city's stormwater drainage system to eliminate or reduce pollutants from the direct discharge of stormwater runoff and prevent local flooding.
• $1.25 million, requested by the city of West Miami, for drainage improvements.
• $1.2 million for the city of South Miami, to provide high-quality municipal water and fire protection in the city.
It turns out Rubio requested more money in Community Budget Issue Requests than all but four members of the 120-member Florida House (Democrat Gary Siplin, $65.1 million; Republican Mike Bennett, $74.8 million; Republican Bev Kilmer, $120.4 million; and Democrat Curtis Richardson, $130.1 million).
In 2001, Rubio requested even more money — $101.2 million for 72 projects — but Rubio did not make another Community Budget Issue Request after 2002, according to the state database. Not one in six years.
But those aren't the years Schale referenced. Schale said Rubio requested 37 earmarks in 2002 worth $43 million — which he says is at odds with Rubio's current support for an earmark ban. Schale has his math right, according to figures kept by the state. Rubio that year ranked fifth in requests for money among Florida House members. We rate Schale's statement True.