Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has shot down fellow Republican Sen. Rick Scott’s suggestion that the governor and mayors in the state return the money they will receive from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package to the federal government.
"It doesn’t make any sense," DeSantis said. "If Florida were to send the money back, [Treasury Secretary Janet] Yellen is going to send it to Illinois, California, New York or New Jersey. I don’t think that would make sense for Floridians – for us to be giving even more money to the blue states that already getting such a big windfall in this bill."
DeSantis said on Tuesday that his plan for $4 billion to $10 billion that the state could receive as part of the American Rescue Plan includes issuing $1,000 payments to law enforcement officers, paramedics and firefighters, increasing spending on tourism marketing and transportation projects.
Scott, who voted against the coronavirus relief package, previously referred to it as "wasteful" and said Monday that "anyone in state and local government who calls themselves a fiscal conservative should know that the funding in the Democrats’ massive spending bill is not free money. This money belongs to the taxpayers and lawmakers have a responsibility to spend it wisely."
Scott suggested that local and state governments viewed the relief package like a "slush fund" and said they should send any funds not directly spent on COVID-19-related expenses back to the federal government, according to POLITICO.
Scott – a billionaire former health care executive and former Florida governor – has long been a critic of government spending and debt. He had previously canceled a high-speed rail project in Florida and returned $2.4 billion in federal assistance for the program.
Last summer, Scott called on governors to express how billions of dollars in coronavirus relief funds from the Congress-approved CARES Act would be spent, a request that DeSantis rejected.
When he was a member of the House, DeSantis had a reputation of being a fiscal hawk who was a constant critic of excessive spending. As governor, he has relied on assistance from the federal government to balance Florida's budget during the economic struggles due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Over the course of the past month, DeSantis was critical of where federal funds were being allocated to, saying that Florida was not receiving a fair amount of the rescue package because money was being given to states based on unemployment rates, not population.