‘Just as it goes’: DeSantis cuts $3 billion from Legislature budget in front of Republican leaders
None were, however, as every Republican lawmaker on stage grinned from ear to ear after DeSantis made the comment, with some visibly signaling that they weren’t upset. Those who joined DeSantis included Senate Speaker Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) and new GOP Senate Leader Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) as well as Speaker Chris Sprows (R-Palm Harbor).
After DeSantis’ remarks, a handful gave their own praise-filled comments about DeSantis.
“How about Ron DeSantis, the Governor of America,” Simpson said, echoing the nickname conservatives across the country bestowed on the Florida governor.
Simpson, an industrial egg producer, is currently running for agriculture commissioner and has won DeSantis’ endorsement.
DeSantis vetoed several high-profile budget items sought by Simpson and top Senate Republicans from the spending plan, which was sent to the governor at $112 billion but will take effect next month at $109 billion. It still remains the biggest spending plan in state history despite massive vetoes.
DeSantis vetoed $645 million guaranteed by the Senate during final budget negotiations for the Department of Corrections to build a new prison; $350 million for Lake Okeechobee aquifer storage wells that were a priority for Simpson; $50 million for a new 6th District Court of Appeals in Lakeland, home of Senate budget chief Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland); $50 million to widen a county road in the district of Simpson; $20 million for two new state planes requested by the Senate; and $20 million that was a Simpson priority for the Moffitt Cancer Center to secure seed funding so it could begin development of a planned 775-acre life science park.
At the conclusion of the legislative session in March, Simpson called the Moffitt project, which is in his district, “transformative.”
The House was not spared DeSantis’ veto carnage.
The governor cut a $1 billion fund proposed by the House to help the state tackle the cost of inflation. According to the proposal, the billion dollars would have been set aside to help fund material cost increases for state projects as inflation continues to remain high. As proposed by the House, it would have been called the “High Need Stimulating Inflation Budgeting Fund,” or BIDEN fund, a nod to soaring inflation under the Biden administration. Senators disagreed with the name, but approved $1 billion in funding for the program.
Hammering Biden on inflation has been one of DeSantis’ favorite pastimes in recent months, including at Thursday’s budget-signing press conference, which he opened by referring to Biden as “Brandon.”
“You look at what he’s done in terms of fiscal and monetary policy, printing and printing billions of dollars,” DeSantis said. “What did you get for that?” The most sustained inflation that this country has known for more than 40 years.
The more than $10 billion Florida has received from the Biden administration in Covid-19 relief funding over the past two years, including about $3.5 billion in the budget DeSantis just sign, were not said.
DeSantis also scrapped a House plan to withdraw $200 million from school districts that defied the DeSantis administration’s ban on mask mandates. Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) drafted the plan, which would have blocked access to money by 12 counties that implemented school mask mandates against DeSantis’ order. But the governor blocked this idea of releasing funding for all districts.
“I direct the Department of Education to implement the Florida School Recognition Program in accordance with this Reading of the Language, which is to reward eligible schools for their accomplishments, as district actions have no affect a school’s eligibility,” DeSantis wrote in a letter. accompanying his veto list.
“I’m somewhat confused by the letter,” Fine told POLITICO in a text message. “The language of the bill was explicit and clear.”
Sprows also didn’t challenge the vetoes, focusing his remarks on DeSantis’ decision to keep Florida’s economy wide open at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, which bolstered state coffers.
“You’ve already heard a lot of good news about this budget,” he said. “This budget is as good as it is for the people of Florida for one reason and one reason only: and that’s because our governor has kept our state open.”
The massive veto list comes as Florida is teeming with cash. The newly signed budget includes more than $20 million in reserves, and just this month, state economists have revised revenue estimates by more than $800 million from previous forecasts.
DeSantis also vetoed a request by Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is running for governor, for 83 positions to process and review concealed carry permits, a function overseen by her office. . Fried blasted the decision, which follows a wave of mass shootings across the country, as reckless and another signal that the governor wants to carry openly, or allowing people to carry guns without a license.
“Ron DeSantis just vetoed my covert carry positions because he wants an open carry,” Fried tweeted. “This is so dangerous and a warning to all Floridians, tourists and businesses. Do NOT give him another term.
Andrew Atterbury contributed to this report.