Leaders across Florida reacted after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the $92.2 billion state budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year on Monday and vetoed more than $1 billion in spending.
“Governor DeSantis has shown tremendous leadership in his budget action today,” said state CFO Jimmy Patronis. “He put his own priorities on the chopping block during a time when many Florida families are having to do the same thing. We know many Floridians have been hurt by the economic shutdown from the coronavirus pandemic, but we are not defined by the obstacles that we face but by our shared strengths to overcome them. I am confident Florida’s economy will recover and we are not going to stop working until every Floridian who wants a job has one and an opportunity to pursue their dreams in our state. States like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut would never had made bold decisions like this to live within their means, which is why they have continued losing their citizens and investments to Florida.”
State Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, also praised DeSantis’ budget.
“These last few months have been challenging in ways we could not have anticipated when we began our budget planning last fall. Our constituents, their businesses, families and way of life have been impacted in unprecedented ways. More than four months into this pandemic, the situation is still evolving, presenting new challenges on an almost daily basis. Despite these significant challenges, this balanced budget is a work product the people of Florida can be proud of. Key priorities are funded, and our state remains on solid financial footing heading into the new fiscal year,” Galvano said.
“Sound financial decisions over the past decade, significant reserves, and above estimate revenue collections earlier this year, combined with federal funding to combat myriad impacts of coronavirus, have created a solid financial buffer that eliminated the need for the draconian cuts some anticipated early on. The fact remains that the tremendous impacts of the coronavirus on our constituents and our economy have changed the budget landscape considerably since we passed our budget in late March. The significant and difficult vetoes issued today by Governor DeSantis further buffer our working capital reserves, creating flexibility that will be needed in both the coming year and during the next budget cycle to respond to challenges which are today unknown,” Galvano added.
“Despite the record vetoes, I am pleased to see our final budget make good on several commitments the Senate made in its initial budget, from significant funding for affordable housing, to a meaningful pay raise for state employees, to critical funds that will preserve our environment for future generations of Floridians. This budget builds on a $783 million increase in K-12 education funding approved by the Legislature and Governor DeSantis last year, with specific funding dedicated to the governor’s priority of increasing the starting salary for Florida’s teachers as well as funding to reward Florida’s hardworking veteran teachers,” Galvano continued. “Our budget also expands funding for resources for vulnerable Floridians, including increased funding for home and community-based services for Floridians with unique abilities and a rate enhancement for the dedicated providers who serve Floridians living in nursing homes.
“I am grateful to Governor DeSantis, Chair Bradley and our Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Chairs, our House colleagues, and all of the staff who have worked so diligently these last several months to ensure our state has a balanced budget that not only sets aside the resources needed to respond to the evolving COVID-19 public health emergency, but also keeps our state on the road to a full economic recovery by investing in the priorities that are important to the constituents we serve,” Galvano said in conclusion.
On the other side of the aisle, the two Democrats who are set to lead their caucus in the Florida House weighed in on the budget on Monday.
“I was hopeful when the teacher raises were protected, but after looking at the vetoes, I see that it’s business as usual again in Florida. Hundreds of local projects were cut that directly help people and communities after major corporations got an early Christmas present in a massive tax rebate package worth over half a billion dollars. The people of Florida deserved better,” said state Rep. Bobby DuBose, D- Fort Lauderdale.
“The governor should not get praise for making tough decisions when part of the reason we are in this mess today is his corporate welfare handouts and the administration’s mishandled coronavirus response,” DuBose added. “We do appreciate the irony that Florida’s Republican leadership has finally embraced Democratic priorities like teacher pay and environmental protections. If they’d listened earlier, Florida would be in a stronger position than it is today.”
“It’s truly awful that huge cuts to our budget happened just when the people of Florida needed their government the most. We didn’t need massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, we needed to fund our schools, provide affordable healthcare, protect our environment, and help build a Florida where everyone has the help they need to succeed,” said state Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Ft. Lauderdale. “Hundreds of projects on this veto list could have been saved if Governor DeSantis had not given away $543 million in corporate tax rebates and $117 million in M-CORE funds for roads that are overpriced, unneeded, and environmentally destructive.
“I have no idea how you justify a $225 million cut to affordable housing during a time when millions of Floridians are living in fear of evictions and foreclosures,” Jenne added.
Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch (FTW), also offered his take on the final budget.
“Since the record breaking $93.2 billion budget for FY2020-21 was passed by the Florida Legislature on March 19, the state’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted the financial and physical health of Florida and its communities. As Florida’s trusted government watchdog and fiscal policy leader, over the past three months Florida TaxWatch has responded to this crisis by introducing numerous policy recommendations, issuing veto guidance in our annual Budget Turkey Watch Report, and laying out our Roadmap for a Responsible Recovery Report to bring Florida’s budget back from COVID-19. Today, we are proud that Gov. DeSantis has heeded TaxWatch’s proposals and vetoed more than $1 billion from the FY2020-21 budget, including vetoing 81 percent, or 146 of the 180 projects and budget items identified by FTW as Budget Turkeys. The governor also vetoed 518 member projects cutting more than $264 million from the budget,” Calabro said.
“The May General Revenue collections report from the Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) showed declines in revenue incomes for the second straight month, placing Florida down nearly $1.5 billion under estimates year to date. These losses underscore the need to resist complacency, double down on our resolve to defeat COVID-19, and continue to create and implement innovative solutions that ensure enduring fiscal accountability and strength for the Sunshine State,” Calabro added. “Just as we have for the past 40 years, FTW will continue to work tirelessly with state and local leaders on fiscal policy recommendations in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Today’s vetoes from Gov. DeSantis are a measured and thoughtful approach and we thank him, his administration, and the countless officials who are working to guide Florida forward and help us emerge from this historical challenge stronger than ever before.”