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How Biden’s cash paid for Florida GOP’s pet education projects

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TALLAHASSEE — Florida Republicans reject President Joe Biden’s policies but sure like to spend his money.

The GOP-led state Legislature was facing an education budget crisis at the start of the 2021 legislative session in March, with lawmakers seriously considering slashing K-12 budgets and increasing tuition at Florida’s public universities. In all, Florida had a nearly $3 billion budget shortfall.

But the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package changed Florida’s dire budget situation and helped the state’s biggest-name Republicans achieve their personal policy goals. Although some state GOP lawmakers claimed the federal relief wasn’t needed, Florida legislators allocated at least $7.4 billion from Biden’s rescue plan to go to K-12 schools next year and beyond. Lawmakers are also using $2.2 billion that Congress approved in 2020 under former President Donald Trump to help provide education money.

The Biden stimulus funds ended up paying for education pet projects of Gov. Ron DeSantis and top state lawmakers like GOP House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor) — including a $200 million book deliver program. But some Republicans are still grumbling about accepting the money.

“I wish they’d never done it,” state Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay), the House’s education budget writer, said of Congress passing Biden’s American Rescue Plan. “But you can’t penalize Florida for the stupid decision of Joe Biden.”

The federal funds left many Republicans in an awkward position: condemn the Biden administration’s spending but also use the cash to keep Florida’s schools afloat and pay........

© Politico

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