Sen.-elect Marco Rubio, R-Fla., joined a Senate effort for a moratorium on earmarks Monday, despite having requested $43 million in earmarks as a Florida House member between 2000 and 2008.
“I want Florida to be fairly represented in this process, [but] on the other hand I think this country owes … $13.5 trillion and growing and we have to deal with that very seriously,” he said in a press conference with Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., on Monday. “If we can’t deal with the issue of earmarks how are we going to deal with $13.5 trillion?” Sen.-elect Rubio’s campaign received funding and early backing from Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., the leader in the Senate for the earmark moratorium.
Florida Democratic operative Steve Schale tweeted the $43 million figure, and PolitiFact Florida checked his numbers and found them true. The three biggest projects include:
• $7.67 million, requested by Jackson Health System, to provide inpatient and outpatient health care services to people with HIV/AIDS, including medications, psycho-social counseling, education and case management.
• $5 million, requested by Miami-Dade County, for an elevated, automated people-mover system connecting three elevated stations in front of the Miami International Airport passenger terminal with the planned Miami Intermodal Center.
• $5 million, requested by Miami-Dade County Empowerment Trust, for a federally designated “empowerment zone” that targets county, state, and federal resources to stimulate economic development in distressed, low-income areas.
Florida ranks near the bottom in per capita dollars received from earmarking, but higher in total dollars, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. The state received $477 million in fiscal year ’08, $556 million in ’09, and $418 million in 2010, from approximately 400-500 earmark requests submitted by lawmakers.
Lawmakers, of course, may find other ways around the proposed moratorium — writing federal agencies for funding or including formerly earmarked projects in legislation, as Jesse Zwick reported today in The Washington Independent. Moreover, the proposed moratorium — if it ever makes it to the Senate floor for a vote, something Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid opposes — is a nonbinding resolution, and actual legislation would have to be enacted for earmarks to disappear.
Luke Johnson reports on Florida for The American Independent.