The term “stimulus” has become a hot potato in today’s divisive political climate. The truth is that stimulus spending has been employed by both parties to help jump-start the economy in times of recession and high unemployment. From massive public-works projects to improving existing infrastructure, stimulus spending has historically been an effective means of strengthening the economy when implemented correctly.
Unfortunately, so much rhetoric and spin have been applied to the discussion that the facts seem to be lost. My purpose is not to persuade you one way or the other on the use of tax dollars to spur the economy, it is simply to provide the facts on Florida’s use of stimulus funds. Love them or hate them, both parties have appropriated them and decided how they will be used. And it’s somewhat disingenuous to say stimulus dollars are bad, but then vote for a budget that includes them.
My analysis covers the period of 2006 to 2012 — under Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic President Obama. During that seven-year period, the Florida House and Senate were in Republican control and the two governors, Charlie Crist and Rick Scott, were both elected as Republicans.
From informal conversations, as well as Facebook and Twitter discussions, it seems many Floridians believe stimulus funding began under the Obama administration and that the federal government — rather than the state and local governments — decided how the money would be spent.
In reality, Florida received a great deal of stimulus funding prior to the current administration, and while there were some strings attached, the Legislature was given a great deal of leeway in determining how to best spend the money. In passing seven separate budgets containing federal stimulus dollars, state lawmakers did indeed vote to accept and spend those dollars.
For fiscal years 2006 through 2008, my figures come from the Senate Budget Committee staff. Starting in 2009, the numbers were displayed on a website maintained by Gov. Crist’s office at FlaRecovery.com. While the website is still active, unfortunately, it no longer breaks down the stimulus dollars and how they were spent. For fiscal years 2009 through 2012, my figures come from a combination of the state’s annual budgets and the federal website Recovery.gov.
During three years under the Bush administration, Florida received $12 billion in stimulus funding. In 2006, the state’s $71.3 billion budget included $4.1 billion in stimulus funds, or 5.7 percent. The next year, $5.4 billion of the state’s $71.95 billion budget came from federal stimulus dollars, or 7.5 percent. And in 2008, $2.5 billion of the $66.25 billion budget came from the federal stimulus, or 3.77 percent.
During four years under the Obama administration, Florida was awarded $11.05 billion of stimulus funds. While year-by-year breakdowns are difficult to determine, it appears we received roughly $7.7 billion in 2009, $3.26 billion in 2010, and less than a billion in 2011 and 2012 combined.
In all, Florida is on pace to have spent $24.2 billion in federal stimulus dollars.
A 43-page list of Florida’s stimulus recipients shows the largest amount going to the Florida Department of Transportation, with $1.15 billion. The Executive Office of the Governor was second highest, with $730 million.
Of the roughly 2,420 named recipients, at number 17 was CSX Transportation, a for-profit corporation that received $100 million. School boards, universities, cities and counties also are on the list, along with electric companies and other private industries.
So let the debate continue. Stimulus is good. Stimulus is bad. But both parties use it. And now you are armed with the facts.
Paula Dockery is a term-limited Republican senator from Lakeland who is chronicling her final year in the Florida Senate.