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DeSantis Refuses to Accept $350 Million for Florida

One of the few organizing principles of the modern Republican Party is: "If Democrats want it, it is wrong." It doesn't matter what it is or how much your constituents would benefit from it, it is simply wrong, so the answer is "NO!" If the Democrats were smart, they would propose eliminating income taxes on billionaires and watch the Republicans shoot the idea down, much to the horror of the billionaires. In a different field, this is called child psychology.

Why are we bringing this up now? Because many red states rejected federal money for Medicaid on the grounds that poor people deserve to be sick? Take that, poor people! No, actually, it's something different this time.

The Inflation Reduction Act has many features to fund the transition to sustainable energy. Florida is entitled to $350 million of that money, but Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has rejected it all. In the primaries, this will be a badge of honor: "I rejected federal money on principle." But if DeSantis is the GOP nominee, it will be a millstone around his neck. Why? Because some of the money is in the form of rebates to consumers for buying energy-efficient appliances or retrofitting their homes. This is a freebie for the Democrats. Joe Biden and other Democrats can say: "We passed a law that gives you a big rebate if you buy a new energy-efficient fridge that will save you money on electricity and the Republicans won't let you have it." When a federal program is somewhat abstract, like protecting the spotted owl or reducing water pollution, it is tricky to defend. When it is about tangible benefits that voters could have had if only some Republican weren't blocking it, is a much better campaign issue.

Another talking point for the Democrats is sunshine. Florida is the Sunshine State, after all. It has lots of it (except when it is experiencing a hurricane). Putting up solar panels to reduce (maybe even eliminate) your electricity costs makes lots of sense in Florida, especially when the feds chip in to pay for a chunk of it. But DeSantis turned that down. When people ask Biden what he is doing to help with the cost of living, one of the things he can say is that he signed a bill to help you buy solar panels to reduce your electricity bill—but the Republicans are against it.

Also, with one of the hottest summers on record fresh in everyone's memory, Biden can point out that he signed a bill offering funding to help weatherize your house to protect it from the heat next year, but Republicans oppose this, too.

Things like this have happened before. Medicaid funding was one, but so was the Obama-era plan to fund high-speed rail. Many red states turned it down. If Dwight Eisenhower had proposed the Interstate Highway System in such a way that states could block it in their territory, then I-40, I-70, I-80, and I-90, which link the East to the West, would never have been built.

DeSantis is not the only top Florida Republican, of course. There is also Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who last year voted against a short-term government funding bill that included money to help Florida rebuild from Hurricane Ian. Now Scott is demanding federal disaster aid for Hurricane Idalia. Maybe he'll get it and DeSantis will veto it. Seems that the Republicans have a love-hate relationship with federal money. (V)

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