President Barack Obama's visit to Florida has given former House Speaker Marco Rubio and others an opportunity to bash Gov. Charlie Crist for his decision to embrace the federal stimulus package earlier this year.
Rubio has been highly critical of the $787 billion stimulus package for months, repeating that government spending can't create prosperity. In his latest pitch to donors, Rubio's campaign states that Crist's "enthusiastic support for a big government spending policy" has failed to halt the rise in unemployment while adding to the deficit.
But Crist wasn't the only Republican who said yes to the stimulus. The GOP-controlled Florida Legislature relied on $5.5 billion to prop up this year's state budget.
So does that mean that Rubio would have said no to the money that came to Florida? Is this about style or substance? Is he saying that Crist should not have given Obama a man-hug in Fort Myers last February, or he is saying that the stimulus is such bad policy that Florida should have refused the cash?
Here's what Alex Burgos, a spokesman for Rubio stated: "Governor Crist actively advocated for a fiscally irresponsible stimulus policy that almost every Republican opposed. Rubio believes this was the wrong approach. At a time when practically every prominent Republican of Governor Crist's stature was opposing Obama's stimulus and offering alternative ideas, he enthusiastically threw his support behind the Obama package.
There's a difference between what Charlie Crist did by accepting the Obama stimulus as the best Congress could do versus what other governors have done by reluctantly accepting federal funds the federal government is disbursing. To answer your question, Rubio's problem with Crist's approach,was, most importantly, about the substance of a policy that spends money the U.S. doesn't really have. And secondly, it's about the message it sent to other Republicans and moderate Democrats to have someone of Crist's stature embrace a misguided policy and encourage others to do so as well - on stage and behind the scenes."
And as to the question, about whether he would have taken the money?
"Because he was no longer in the Legislature this year, Rubio was not as intimately familiar with the budget as an active legislator would be,'' said Burgos. However, in each of Rubio's nine legislative sessions, the House produced a balanced budget without raising taxes. In good times and in tough times, legislators tightened their belts and cut spending without raising taxes as Charlie Crist did earlier this year. In addition, despite the $5 billion in stimulus, Crist still supported increases in state taxes this year, breaking a pledge he made to never to do so."
A point of clarification: Several of the budgets that Rubio did vote on while he was in the Florida House relied on increased property taxes to fund public schools. Instead of rolling back property taxes, Florida lawmakers used escalating property values to generate additional money. In a recent interview about this, Rubio said he couldn't really do anything about it until he became speaker.