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DeSantis claims credit for first responder bonus checks funded by Biden's Rescue Plan

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis decries ‘Bidenflation’ but fails to credit the billions from Biden’s American Rescue Plan that helped create his state’s budget surplus.

By Adrian Cole - September 21, 2022
Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference to announce expanded toll relief for Florida commuters, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, in Miami, Fla.

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted on Sept. 12 that first responders in the state would be receiving bonuses, announcing: “$1,000 bonus checks are in the mail for Florida’s first responders. These checks are a token of our appreciation for all they do to keep our communities safe and secure. This makes two years in a row that we have delivered for our fire rescue and law enforcement communities.”

The bonuses, said the governor, will go to 100,000 first responders employed at any level of local government as of May 1, 2022.

On Sept. 19, standing behind a podium adorned with a sign reading “FIRST RESPONDER BONUSES,” DeSantis told an audience in Jacksonville that the bonuses were possible due to a historically large state budget surplus, a consequence, he said, of his administration’s refusal to shutter the economy during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We’re so happy to be here, to be able to do that, at Jacksonville Fire and Rescue, because we know how hard you guys have been working. … We thought last year that this was something that was appropriate to do, to show that we support, and it was something that I think a lot of people felt, uh, obviously you’d like the money, especially, you know, when you’ve had a bout of Bidenflation like we’ve seen over the last year and a half,” he said.

Blaming President Joe Biden for inflation, DeSantis went on to take credit for Florida’s financial health, saying to applause from his audience: “It helps when you have by far the biggest budget surplus in the history of the state of Florida. You can do a lot of things when you have that. And we would never have had that surplus if the other folks had had their way and shut this state down for a year, that would not have happened. We would be in dire straits had we listened to them. So we did the right thing.”

DeSantis neglects to mention that Florida’s economy received a large boost thanks to coronavirus relief funding through a law enacted by the Biden administration.

Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law in March 2021. The act’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds are designated to provide “$350 billion to state, local, and Tribal governments across the country to support their response to and recovery from the COVID-19 public health emergency,” according to the U.S. Treasury Department.

A state report on Florida’s use of money allocated by the recovery funds for the period ending July 31, 2021, notes: “Funding authorized in the Florida Leads budget reflects a thoughtful, long-term approach to a sustainable recovery for the state with SLFRF funds leveraged for this purpose. The $4.4 billion in funds, representing 50% of Florida’s SLFRF allocation, is presented in the context of the state budget priorities kicked off with the $101.5 billion FY 2021-22 Florida Leads budget.”

The report, which credits DeSantis and carries his name on every page, mentions that the act “was signed,” but makes no mention of Biden or the administration’s efforts to provide assistance to the states.  

A news release issued by DeSantis’ office in June announcing that he had signed the “Freedom First” Florida budget for 2022-2023 highlighted that it was the largest state budget in history, while attacking Biden:

Today, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Freedom First budget for Fiscal Year 2022-2023 which prioritizes the freedoms of Floridians to live, work, and have successful businesses in the state. The budget totals $109.9 billion and includes a record $1.24 billion in tax relief for Floridians. …  ‘Florida has preserved freedom and kept the economy open, which has enabled the state to outperform the nation in jobs, growth, and business formations,’ said Governor Ron DeSantis. ‘Our commitment to freedom has paid off. Our responsible fiscal policies have put the state in a strong position … in spite of the reckless fiscal and monetary policies of the Biden administration.’

There is no mention in the announcement of the $8.8 billion Florida was allocated under the SLFRF. 

In a statement posted to his official website in July, DeSantis repeated criticism of the Biden administration:

Despite the headwinds created by the Biden administration’s policies, Florida is in a strong fiscal position because we preserved freedom and kept our economy open. Our responsible policies have allowed us to make record investments to support our communities, promote education, protect the environment, and provide record tax relief for Floridians, all while building record reserves to protect the state against the reckless fiscal policies from Washington.  

While calling the American Rescue Act “Washington at its worst” in March 2021, DeSantis complained that the amount allocated to his state was insufficient and unfair because it was based on unemployment numbers instead of the state’s percentage of the nation’s population.

The website Governing published an article in May pointing out DeSantis’ willingness to spend money allocated by the federal government, and to take credit for it as well. It quoted Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Travis Reuther, who said, “Once again, phony Ron DeSantis will do anything to further his political ambitions, even if it means taking credit for the results of legislation that he called ‘Washington at its worst.'”

Democratic political consultant Mac Stipanovich was quoted saying of DeSantis’ promotion of funding for broadband: “He did that to run to the head of the parade on broadband and digital expansion … after being critical of it. And DeSantis is the epitome of hypocrisy on issues like distribution of federal funds, the appropriation of which he criticizes and then touts.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist called DeSantis out in a statement in May 2021 after DeSantis signed the budget for the next fiscal year: “Here’s a fact check for Gov. DeSantis: the funding that made this budget possible was delivered by the American Rescue Plan I fought for in Congress alongside President Joe Biden. Without the American Rescue Plan, Florida would be facing harsh budget cuts — but Gov. DeSantis is so focused on dividing Floridians for personal gain that he can’t admit that. He can’t tell the truth.”

Just days after making his announcement about the $1,000 bonuses for first responders, DeSantis caused a furor by flying 48 asylum-seekers from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, claiming that his program had targeted migrants “most likely” to come to Florida. The $615,000 cost of the airlift came out of a $12 million state fund created in the current budget “to facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens out of Florida.”  

“Ron DeSantis thinks using millions in taxpayer dollars to run a state sponsored human trafficking scheme is a good way to spend Floridians money,” Charlie Crist tweeted. “Remember that on November 8th.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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