November 27, 2016
Understanding the Trump effect on Florida
WASHINGTON - Donald Trump calls Florida his second home. He’s tight with Gov. Rick Scott. And many of the themes he espoused on the campaign trail — revamping Veterans Affairs, reviving the space program, reinvesting in the military — could be boons to the Sunshine State.
But his promise to expand off-shore drilling, plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and call for deporting millions of undocumented immigrants has some in the state worried his policies could be bad news for many Floridians.
Trump is expected to reverse many of President Barack Obama’s policies, while maintaining the status quo on others.
Florida has never produced a president. But Tallahassee lobbyist Bill Helmich said Trump comes close — “he lives here, has property here, does business here” — and that’s a plus.
“He understands what Florida is and how policies affect a state as diverse as we are.” said Helmich, a Trump supporter whose clients include businesses and veteran service organizations in the state. “It’s definitely to our advantage to have a president familiar with our state.”
But Eric Draper, the executive director of Audubon Florida, worries that Trump’s single-minded focus on job creation — similar to the approach Scott has taken as governor — could come at a high cost to Florida.
“When you have an orientation which is less government, less regulation and less spending, the environment becomes the first victim of that triad of changes,” he said.
It’s hard to get a read on Trump. Many of his promises he made on the stump were broad, often laid out without great detail. And lately, he’s begun dialing back a bit on some of them. Monday the president-elect laid out his broad agenda for the first 100 days of his administration.
He’ll have the assistance from Congress on many of these issues because Republicans control the House and Senate. But he’ll still have to bring along some Democrats in the Senate who may use filibuster rules to try and block some of his agenda.
Here’s how Florida might fare under a Trump presidency:
Affordable Care Act
Trump’s insistence during the campaign that the Affordable Care Act be completely replaced has since been amended by the president-elect. He now says he’d like to at least keep the provisions barring denial of coverage to people based on pre-existing medical conditions and allowing children up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ plan.
About 1.7 million Floridians, who aren’t eligible for employer-based or government-sponsored health insurance, have obtained coverage through the ACA health care exchange site, an online marketplace.
A lack of competition as insurers pull out of the state has contributed to a 14-19 percent projected spike in premiums consumers are facing next year, though Obama administration officials say those out-of-pocket expenses will be offset by tax credits for nine of 10 Floridians on the exchange.
Trump has called for the law to be replaced with several elements designed to help people keep coverage and keep costs down such as health savings accounts and the ability to buy insurance across state lines though it’s not clear how that would affect Floridians.
He’s also promising to work with Congress “to create a patient-centered health care system that promotes choice, quality, and affordability,” and to work with states to establish high-risk pools for those who lack coverage.
One Obama initiative Trump has made clear he wants to derail is the effort to combat climate change. The man who in June called global warming a hoax invented by the Chinese, repeatedly said he would back out of the Paris Accord where industrialized nations including the United States agreed to limits on greenhouse gas emissions.
Tampa and Miami have been identified as among the world’s cities most at risk to rising sea levels. Flooding is already commonplace in Miami Beach on a regular basis. And the state’s coastal communities face increasing threats from rising ocean temperatures that are projected to increase the strength and size of tropical storms.
Trump has made it clear that he would undo the steps Obama has taken to normalize relations with the communist island nation only 90 miles off Key West.
“The people of Cuba have struggled too long. Will reverse Obama’s Executive Orders and concessions towards Cuba until freedoms are restored,” he tweeted last month.
Though he criticized Obama for giving up much more than he got in return on human rights and other concessions, Trump seemed to hint during a GOP presidential debate in March that he agreed with the president in principle that a new chapter with Cuba has to be written.
“After 50 years, it’s enough time, folks,” Trump said, adding that any agreement with Cuba would have to be “a strong, solid, good deal.”
Trump has mentioned the need to protect the Everglades during campaign stops in Florida.
But apart from vague promises of preserving the famed River of Grass, he’s not done much to lay out specifics beyond protecting drinking water supplies and repairing the deteriorating Herbert Hoover Dike built to contain overflows from Lake Okeechobee.
Draper said he expects the work already underway to restore the Everglades and reduce harmful water flows from Lake Okeechobee to continue under a Trump administration. Much of the funding for the Corps of Engineers-funded projects enjoy bipartisan support so there’s little reason to think that momentum would slow under the new president, he said.
The recreational fishing industry (big business in Florida) often has clashed with the Obama administration on catch limits, especially in the Gulf of Mexico. Anglers generally want more access to than they’ve been given in recent years as government efforts to rebuild once-depleted stocks have restricted access.
Industry advocates expect the change in leadership will mean happier times.
“Donald Trump will give fishermen and our recreational industry a chance to prosper,” said Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. “I’m sure President Trump’s administration will allow us to bring our grievances forward so we can fix the current law so we have access, rebuilding and conservation. All three can be achieved.”
On the campaign trail. Trump said he would deport all undocumented immigrants. Estimates peg that number nationally at between 11 million and 12 million. About 1 million of those are believed to live in Florida.
Lately, he’s talked about deporting only those who have committed crimes. He says that’s between 2 million and 3 million though experts say the number is substantially lower. It’s also not clear how many Floridians fall into that category.
What’s easier to measure is the number of Floridians who would face deportation if Trump, as he has repeatedly promised, does away with Obama’s executive order on Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals. DACA protects hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to the United States as children.
The number of immigrants who have temporary deportation relief through DACA between 2012 and March 2016 includes 49,138 in Florida, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Because it’s an executive order, Trump can tear it up without needing congressional say-so.
Trump has vowed to increase military spending and has been specific on what he wants: increase the size of the Army to 540,000 active duty soldiers (now about 471,000), rebuild the Navy toward a goal of 350 ships (now at 272), provide the Air Force with an additional 1,200 fighter aircraft (above the current inventory of roughly 6,000), and grow the Marine Corps to 36 battalions from about 24 now.
All those would be important to Florida which has more than a dozen major installations scattered around the state.
Doing so would require lifting the budget restrictions known as the sequester. Most lawmakers want to eliminate the sequester, which was reluctantly agreed to in 2011 and affects most federal agencies.
But Congress remains divided largely along partisan lines on how much extra spending should be allowed. Democrats are willing to lift the sequester on Defense spending if it’s also lifted for other parts of the government. If they’re unhappy and block efforts to curb sequestration, it will be harder for Trump to beef up the military.
Trump has vowed to “unleash” America’s untapped energy reserves, including oil and gas. Doing so would create up to 400,000 new jobs per year nationally, his campaign web site says.
It’s unclear how aggressively the new president would pursue drilling off Florida’s coast. He’d have some allies in Congress who would be interested in loosening of the ban off the coast of the Sunshine State. He’s also got a potentially personal stake: Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach resort that doubles as a second home, is near the water.
Even if Trump wanted to expand drilling, it won’t be easy to get Congress to relax the ban. A less threatening move to expand drilling royalties to Florida’s neighboring states was defeated in the Senate last week.
Those efforts were led by Florida Democrat Bill Nelson who said a repeat of the 2010 BP Deep Horizon oil spill would devastate Florida’s tourism-based economy.
Draper is not optimistic that the ban will remain with Trump in the White House. Although recent efforts to incentivize drilling have died in Congress, he believes lawmakers might feel more empowered to do so knowing the new president won’t veto such a move.
“It’s unlikely that there will be enough votes in the Congress alone to keep them from opening Florida’s waters to off-shore oil drilling,” he said.
Trump has promised to defund “sanctuary cities,” local governments that are openly declining to cooperate with federal authorities to deport undocumented immigrants.
Because some groups identify those localities in different ways, it’s hard to get an exact count. But the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for stricter border enforcement, list the following counties: Broward, Hernando, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Pasco and Pinellas counties.
Defunding these and dozens of others is a tall order for a couple of reasons: there’s disagreement on what exactly qualifies as one and many of these areas have bipartisan representation. That said, there may be more surgical ways a Trump administration can persuade or coerce localities to go along.
If Trump wants to “make American great again,” the space program seems like an obvious place to start. The U.S. dominance in space has ebbed a bit lately following the abandonment of the moon, the mothballing of the space shuttle, and emerging space programs of other ambitious countries, notably China.
It’s not clear exactly what the incoming president will do when it comes to exploration or even whether a change in direction would affect activity at the Kennedy Space Center or nearly Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
In a recent speeches this year in Florida, Trump has promised “major investments in space exploration ... This means launching and operating major space assets, right here, that employ thousands and spur innovation and fuel economic growth.”
The president-elect has talked about the need to expand public-private partnerships, which sounds like he’d continue the direction NASA took under Obama with programs teaming up with private partners like SpaceX and Boeing to develop a replacement for the shuttle.
Mars remains the ultimate goal and that won’t change under Trump. But he could diverge from NASA’s current plan to use an asteroid as a stepping stone to the Red Planet and instead shoot for the moon as George W. Bush had wanted. That would prove much more expensive than an asteroid (a big reason Obama scrapped a return) but there are also potential business partnerships a lunar visit and potential colony would engender.
Some of the biggest cheers Trump drew on the campaign trail centered around his pledge to “clean up” the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has been slammed in recent years by charges of substandard care, long appointment backlogs and deceptive practices at the same time that top managers received bonuses.
Steps are being taken to improve care for the nation’s more than 21 million veterans though many question the effectiveness of those measures. Florida has about 1.5 million veterans, half of whom are 65 and over.
But the Sunshine State would get special attention if Trump picks Northwest Florida congressman Jeff Miller as the next VA secretary. Miller, a relatively early Trump supporter who did not run for re-election, said he would seriously consider the job if he were nominated.
Miller, who chairs the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, has pounded on the agency for mismanagement and was a driving force behind legislation making it easier to discipline and fire senior administrators. As head of the VA, Miller would also be able to direct more resources to the state, such as opening up more clinics.