Charlie Crist, Florida’s Republican Governor, thinks that President Obama’s stimulus package would be good for our cash starved state. Republican Senator Mel Martinez thinks otherwise. How can such a dichotomy exist? The two elected officials ostensibly represent the people of Florida albeit in different capacities. Governor Crist is the Chief Executive of our state while Senator Martinez serves in the legislative branch of the Federal Government. Both of them however, are elected by the voters of Florida.
Governor Charlie Crist has been quoted often stating the stimulus package, “Could be the deciding factor in alleviating some of the state’s budget woes by offsetting deeper cuts to education, healthcare, and public safety.” Tallahassee has been working to cut the state budget but not everyone is happy with where the axe has fallen.
The stimulus package has some potential benefit for the Keys as well. The operative word for infrastructure spending at the congressional level these days is “shovel ready,” meaning projects that are already in place or ready to go immediately. The Keys wastewater projects certainly qualify and efforts are underway to grab money allocated for infrastructure spending for Monroe County.
Where then does Senator Martinez have a problem? Apparently the Senator believes education spending is not important enough to fund, stating that, “Education funding is seen as a state function, not federal.” Who’s he kidding? No Child Left Behind was a federal program, administered by the U.S. Department of Education that impacted Florida’s schools dramatically. I suppose it’s OK for the Federal Government to meddle in public education when it wants to mandate one cockamamie program or another, but not when it comes to paying for it.
Mr. Martinez supports a different stimulus package that leaves education funding out completely. We better make sure kids in school who are going to end up paying for all these bailouts get the education they need to figure out how to do it. According to Senator Martinez funding military spending and cutting taxes are better uses of federal dollars than education. While targeted tax cuts are undoubtedly important the cuts put in place six years ago didn’t seem to do the trick. Furthermore I think we’ve given enough money to defense contractors over the last five years. Let’s cut our spending in Iraq and use that money to build our military equipment back up. I can’t recall reading or hearing a lot about defense contractors laying people off, so what kind of “multiplier effect” (another buzz word on Capitol Hill) does military spending produce? In fact, Halliburton has taken the largesse from their Iraq war contracts and moved it offshore to their new corporate headquarters in, of all places, Dubai!
Are we seeing a true debate on the issue of economic stimulus or are we seeing obstructive party politics disguised as interest in economic recovery? Do Republicans on Capitol Hill think we’ll just forget how their dysfunctional ideology drove us into insolvency? Senator Martinez’ support or opposition to a stimulus package should be viewed through a lens of what will keep Floridians working, not what serves his masters in Washington, DC. Florida is facing financial Armageddon and if Senator Martinez votes against a package that is good for Florida for political reasons we should make sure he becomes an unemployment statistic.