Last Friday night, all 16 GOP members of the US House from Florida voted against the bipartisan infrastructure plan championed by President Biden, but not completely dissimilar in its goals to the rhetoric of President Trump during his successful 2016 campaign for the GOP nomination and Presidency. Both US Senators from Florida opposed the legislation also.
It’s especially odd given the emphasis to their credit Governor’s Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis have put on physical infrastructure in leading the state. Florida’s constant growth cycle requires robust, dynamic and ultimately well funded solutions to our transportation and infrastructure needs. Beyond our state, the US’ physical infrastructure is arguably the worst of any major western nation and has become a serious economic competitive issue for this nation.
- Broadband internet is a necessity, not a luxury as many claim in this state. It’s been personally humiliating as an American that when I travel to India, a nation I spent much of my life condescendingly looking down upon (something I am not proud of in hindsight) and I access faster, more reliable internet in some dark, rat-infested corner of a polluted Indian city than I do in most places in Florida, including my own home.
- Florida has over 400 bridges in “poor” condition according to the state itself and thousands of miles of poor highways (in fairness, Florida roads some of the best in the country, however their has been a noticeable decline in conditions the last decade). American bridge-building in general has fallen WELL behind western Europe, China and even Turkey. It may sounds like scare-mongering but the next I-35 Mississippi River Bridge collapse could be right around the corner.
- Our state has some of the worst cities for cycling – in fact I’d rank Fort Lauderdale and Orlando at very bottom nationally in terms of being bike-friendly cities. This legislation addresses that.
- Florida cities are also some of the most dangerous places to be pedestrians in the United States. This legislation will help fix that.
- The Everglades which is a stated priority of Governor Ron DeSantis (mostly rhetorically of course! Though in fairness he’s not as bad as Rick Scott or Jeb Bush on the glades) will get a big boost from this. It’s taken two decades to get the Tamiami Trail project even partially right and Everglades restoration efforts are woefully inadequate and years behind currently.
- One thing Florida has gotten right is the people movers systems in Miami and Jacksonville. Miami’s system is easily the best in the country but now is 35 years-old and needs some serious upkeep. Hopefully this legislation will give some relief there and also allow Jacksonville to further expand their system.
So the question remains, why would any elected official from this state, oppose legislation which likely has greater tangible economic benefits than the price tag? We’re talking about upgrading Florida’s cities, the connectivity between them, improving internet access for everyone (especially those outside cities), becoming more pedestrian friendly and being more competitive economically globally.
As always though, it’s incumbent on the Democrats to explain to the public benefits of this legislation and that the opposition of Florida Republicans is against the best interests of the state’s citizens. Let’s hope they can do that adequately.