‘Pork-barrel spending’: Ron DeSantis disses federal infrastructure bill, but state will benefit

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The Governor offered few specific critiques.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday criticized the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework President Joe Biden will sign into law this week, alluding to “pork barrel spending” and again overstating the case against an obscure study tucked away into the legislation.

The Governor, who was in Zephyrhills with legislative leadership reasserting stands against vaccine and mask mandates ahead of Special Session next week, offered to local media what seemed to be surface-level critiques of the latest tranche of federal spending from Democratic-controlled Washington.

“So, um, I think it was a lot of pork barrel spending from what I could tell,” DeSantis said, not offering specifics.

For what it’s worth, the Biden administration notes Florida has deep infrastructure needs.

“The need for action in Florida is clear. For decades, infrastructure in Florida has suffered from a systemic lack of investment. In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Florida a C grade on its infrastructure report card,” asserts a Biden Administration fact sheet.

The White House says Florida has 408 bridges and more than 3,564 miles of highway in poor condition. The fact sheet denotes issues in other areas, including water quality, internet connectivity, and others.

DeSantis did not engage on those matters, preferring instead to rehash concerns about a five-year pilot program studying the feasibility of a mileage fee for drivers that was tucked into the package.

Some reporting, including from conservative Newsmax, has presented this as a proposed tax of up to 8 cents per gallon; however, even Newsmax told FactCheck.org that scenario was “hypothetical.”

“One of the things that was in there is they’re trying to open the door to do a mileage tax on your car. Some people want to be able to monitor the amount of car. They say the gas tax doesn’t get enough money. So they want to monitor the mileage you’re driving in your car and tax you for the mile. They opened the door for that in that bill. That will never fly in the state of Florida. We will not allow that to happen,” DeSantis said, drawing applause.

The Department of Transportation says the voluntary pilot program is one of a group of potential “user-based alternative revenue mechanisms that utilize a user fee structure to maintain the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.” But for DeSantis, what he calls a mileage tax has represented a particularly onerous form of federal encroachment.

He blasted it as part of the “bad juju” in the bill in comments Oct. 15 in Northport.

“There was also one of the bills where they wanna, and I think it’s a pilot for now but you know they expand it. They want to track how much mileage you’re doing on your car and tax you. So how the hell are they gonna do that? Follow you around? So there’s some really, really bad juju going on up there right now,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis has seen recent budgets buoyed by pandemic spending from the federal government, with $10.1 billion of federal funding in the $101.5 billion current budget, and it’s perhaps telling that he refused to offer a real critique of the legislation when asked. But it’s on trend for DeSantis.

The Governor memorably bemoaned “blue state bailouts” earlier this year, claiming Florida got shorted in “fundamentally unfair” allocation models based on how much of the workforce was unemployed.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski



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