Florida Senator Rick Scott, and State Representative Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) urge Congress to reject providing an additional round of stimulus funding that they say would go beyond helping state and local governments deal with the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Scott was on the Senate floor Wednesday arguing that “we are bailing out liberal politicians who cannot live within their means.”
A letter from the American Legislative Exchange Council —- backed by nine Florida state House members and two state senators — was addressed to federal officials under the title, “State Leaders Say ‘No Thanks’ to Federal Bailout.”
“While economic conditions remain dire due to government-mandated business closures during the pandemic, federal lawmakers have already granted a general $150 billion COVID-19 relief fund, a $30 billion education costs fund, a $45 billion disaster relief fund and more for state and local governments,” the letter said. “We feel a federal bailout of state budgets would be counterproductive — rewarding states that have made poor financial decisions at the expense of those that have been fiscally responsible.”
State senators who signed the letter were Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, and David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs. State House members signing on were Juan Alfonso Fernandez-Barquin, R-Miami; Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud; Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay; Mike Hill, R-Pensacola; Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills; Byron Donalds, R-Naples; Ana Maria Rodriguez, R-Doral; Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers; and Tommy Gregory, R-Sarasota.
The current fiscal year ends June 30. DeSantis and leaders of the Republican-dominated Legislature have indicated the state has enough cash to avoid making any budget changes before then. But bigger questions loom about whether the $93.2 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 will have to be cut because of plummeting tax revenues caused by the pandemic.
Democratic lawmakers have been calling for steps such as boosting unemployment benefits and expanding Medicaid eligibility. They tried to use a process to force a special legislative session but were unsuccessful because Republicans did not go along.
State Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, said she will continue to press DeSantis to extend unemployment benefits.
“We’re going to have some problems if he doesn’t do that,” Stewart said. “We’re going to have to depend a lot on the governor. If he doesn’t want to have a special session, we’ll have to depend on him to do the other things that are needed.”
As of Wednesday, the state Department of Economic Opportunity reported 1.94 million unemployment applications since March 15, of which 1.4 million are considered “unique,” as some people filed multiple claims. State payments, totaling $618 million, have been made to 650,612 applicants.