Florida Faces Fierce Debates as DeSantis Picks Budget Winners and Losers

Governor DeSantis’ new budget proposal has been met with a healthy dose of criticism and praise. Let’s take a look at what his priorities are.

DeSantis Signs Massive State Budget

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Governor Ron DeSantis made headlines on Wednesday with the signing of a huge $116.5 billion state budget for fiscal year 2024-25. 

Boosts and Big Cuts

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While the budget provides a boost to education, transportation, and conservation funding, it came with a sharp sting for some as DeSantis wielded his veto power to cut millions in cultural grants and other projects.

Historic Support for Key Sectors

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DeSantis took the stage in downtown Tampa to announce the budget – HB 5001 – and what he called “historic support” for key sectors. He couldn’t resist pointing out that the state is spending less than last year. “Aren’t you happy to see that?” he shouted to the cheering crowd. 

Increased Funding for K-12 Education

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The budget gives a hefty $28.4 billion to K-12 education, up $1.8 billion from last year. Teachers salaries are also getting a $1.25 billion uplift – $200 million more than 2023’s budget. 

Criticizing Teachers Unions

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DeSantis didn’t miss a chance to slam the teacher unions, suggesting they often mismanage funds meant for teachers. “It’s not enough to say, ‘Oh, we’re giving money to education because what happens is, the districts and unfortunately these unions can haggle over this, and they basically try to benefit themselves,” he said.

Union President’s Response to DeSantis

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Andrew Spar, union president of the Florida Education Association, fired back, saying the $200 million bump “equates to a salary increase in every classroom teacher’s paycheck of about $125 a month, and nowhere near the $15,000 annual increase needed to match the national average for teacher salaries.”

Environmental Funding and Everglades Restoration

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On the environmental front, the budget promises $1.7 billion to improve water quality and $740 million for Everglades restoration. 

Praise from Everglades Trust CEO

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Everglades Trust CEO Anna Upton praised the budget, saying, “Gov. DeSantis has continued to fulfill the promises that he made to Floridians by advocating for and securing a budget that contains over $740 million for Everglades restoration.”

Health and Development Funding

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Other big allocations are $456.5 million for the health and development of pregnant women, new moms, and kids, plus $442 million for behavioral health sciences.

Department of Corrections Infrastructure Improvements

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The Department of Corrections is set to receive over $102 million for infrastructure improvements, including general maintenance, environmental needs, and making sure everything is ADA-compliant. This was welcomed as good news, as the department is currently facing a huge funding shortfall.

Late-Day Vetoes

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In a late-day twist, DeSantis’ office released a list of vetoes that cut $32 million in cultural and museum grants. 

Democratic Rep. Criticizes Cultural Cuts

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Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani wasn’t happy, criticizing the cuts as a blow to community enrichment and cultural heritage. “These funds were set to support well-vetted nonprofit organizations that play a crucial role in enriching our community and preserving our cultural heritage,” Eskamani said.

Reasoning Behind the Vetoes

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According to DeSantis, he vetoed around $1 billion in line items. “Some of the stuff wasn’t appropriate for state tax dollars,” he added.

Largest Veto

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The largest veto DeSantis made was $26.2 million for a new science and engineering building at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. That project is now on hold.

Cuts to Local Water, Drainage, and Sewage Projects

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DeSantis also cut dozens of local water, drainage, and sewage projects across the state. Lawmakers had included 281 such projects costing $410.3 million in the budget, but many of these were vetoed.

Numerous Road and Community Projects Nixed

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The governor also nixed funding for numerous road projects, ballparks, fire trucks, and community centers without much explanation. In total, he vetoed 1,600 local projects worth around $3 billion.

Backlash from Florida Democratic Party Chair

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Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried criticized these cuts, stating, “Once again, Ron has passed a near-record budget that doesn’t come close to meeting the needs of Floridians.” Fried also accused DeSantis of trying to bury the bad news by releasing the veto list late.

Fiscal Responsibility vs. Community Impact

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While DeSantis hails the budget as a triumph of fiscal responsibility and strategic investment, the cuts have sparked a major backlash. 

Potential Long-Term Effects of Budget Cuts

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Critics argue that slashing cultural and infrastructure funding could have long-term negative effects on the community and the state’s development.

Future Implications

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With the new fiscal year starting on July 1, all eyes are on how these budget decisions will play out in everyday Floridian lives.

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The post Florida Faces Fierce Debates as DeSantis PIcks Budget Winners and Losers first appeared on Liberty & Wealth.

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The content of this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute or replace professional financial advice.

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