Last month, Ron DeSantis was sworn in as Florida’s 46th governor, ushering in new leadership in Tallahassee. In his first few weeks in office, DeSantis has hit the road running, firing water management bureaucrats, removing Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for mishandling the Parkland High School shooting and Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher for her poor record, holding a “Deregathon” to reduce the number of regulations on businesses in Florida, eliminating Common Core and appointing conservative justices to the Florida Supreme Court.
Not bad for just three weeks work. I was feeling pretty optimistic about our new governor.
My optimism was short lived and came to a screeching halt on Friday when DeSantis announced his budget proposal, sending state spending to a new all-time record high of $91.3 billion. The governor’s budget represents a $2.6 billion increase over the budget passed last session, which at the time, was a record of $88.7 billion, up $6.3 billion–7.6 percent–over the 2017 budget.
Of course, the governor can only propose a budget. The Florida Legislature will have the final say though the governor can always use his line-item veto. DeSantis will say that part of the increased spending is on hurricane disaster relief and some of that funding will come from the federal government. The bottom line is that DeSantis shows no interest in reducing spending or eliminating waste, duplication and unnecessary government programs.
Less than a decade ago, Florida Legislature passed a $66.5 billion budget. We are now looking at more than $91 billion–and recent history shows us that the Legislature usually adds more than what the governor first proposes. Is this the new “fiscal conservatism?”
The record high budget proposal from DeSantis is perplexing based on his past positions. While in Congress, DeSantis was a member of the House Freedom Caucus and railed against government spending and waste. Now he wants to fund the purchasing of more “conservation land” which comes at a huge cost to the taxpayers in annual debt service and maintenance costs. DeSantis also continues Scott’s expensive corporate welfare programs.
The economy has improved significantly over the last two years as have revenue estimates. Apparently, the governor can’t wait to spend it all. Unfortunately, this means DeSantis is just another politician that expands government when tax revenues are plentiful–which means he will be forced to increase taxes during an economic downturn. Florida’s leaders should have learned their lesson from recent history. From 2003-2006, the economy was humming and revenues to the state coffers were plentiful. The Florida Legislature wasted that windfall and spent it all. When when the economy tanked in 2008, the Legislature passed a $2 billion tax and fee increase. All this happened under a Republican governor and Legislature.
It’s a lesson DeSantis should have learned. While he painted himself as true fiscal conservative in Congress and on the campaign trail, based on his first budget proposal, apparently he isn’t.
Alex Snitker is a United States Marine veteran who was the Libertarian nominee for the U.S. Senate back in 2010. He is the president of the Liberty First Network, the liberty lobbying organization based in Florida that works in Tallahassee on positive liberty legislation and educates the citizens on the political process and how they can individually make an impact.