Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he plans to cut enough spending from the state’s proposed $93.2 billion budget to prevent a COVID-fueled budget deficit.
Legislators passed a record spending plan for fiscal year 2021 in March, but the proposed budget has not been officially delivered to DeSantis, who says his office plans to use his line-item veto power to target cuts to areas of agency budgets that can be withheld without great loss to the agencies’ functions.
“There’s going to be a lot more vetoes; there’ll be a lot of red,” DeSantis told reporters at a June 16 news conference.
The need for budget cuts is driven largely by the loss of millions of dollars of expected state tax revenue from the impacts of COVID-19, especially because the proposed budget was originally created before the effects of the coronavirus lockdown became apparent, DeSantis says.
“I don’t think the Legislature should have foreseen, because I think it was a very abrupt thing that happened,” DeSantis told reporters. “I think that they did a good job. And there’s a lot of things in there [the budget] that I think are meritorious. But at the same time, you know, we’re living in a different reality. We’ve got to take that into account. And so, we will exercise that authority accordingly.”
DeSantis told the press he will try to retain spending for areas such as teacher pay hikes.
“Teacher raises are important,” DeSantis told reporters. “I said I’m going to veto some things in my budget; I’m not going to veto everything in my budget. We want to obviously try to deliver as many of the priorities as we can.”
DeSantis said he will also move millions of unspent dollars to next year’s general revenue fund from an economic-development program known as the Job Growth Grant Fund. The fund, created in 2017, provides compensation for job training and public infrastructure projects instead of directly offering incentives to companies.
Letter of Opposition
A group of 35 organizations sent a letter to DeSantis on June 19 calling for the governor’s office to protect public services by finding funds wherever possible rather than cutting spending.
The groups involved with the letter include the League of Women Voters of Florida, Habitat for Humanity of Florida, and United Way of Florida. The letter advocates sustaining funding levels for areas such as housing, health, conservation, children, and retirees. Funding priorities mentioned in the letter include teacher pay hikes, affordable housing opportunities, and Florida’s environmental land acquisition program.
The letter suggests using “common-sense” measures to increase state revenue, such as imposing a sales tax on online purchases and holding corporations accountable for their tax liability, among other measures.
“The governor must protect crucial programs and services, or else we will see existing racial and economic disparities exacerbated in Florida,” Sadaf Knight, CEO of the Florida Policy Institute, said in a statement on June 19.
The new budget, including any potential changes made by DeSantis, will go into effect July 1.