On the first day of the 2020 Legislative Session, House Speaker José Oliva‘s speech had a recurrent refrain.
Thundered, nine times, with the subtlety of a hammer banging an anvil: “SPENDING IS NOT CARING, SOLVING IS CARING.”
Oliva’s remarks, delivered in the first House sitting of the Session before Gov. Ron DeSantis delivered his State of the State address, stressed fiscal prudence with that seven-word refrain.
And as compared with the measured remarks delivered previously by Senate President Bill Galvano, Oliva’s were a bit more rousing, even as he vowed to work “collaboratively” with the Senate,
The “mass exodus” from high-tax states larded with legacy costs? Proof that “spending is not caring; solving is caring.”
The “health care complex,” meanwhile, is an avaricious octopus in Oliva’s account. 2019 saw a reform agenda. And in 2020, the Speaker is not done.
“They receive state dollars, federal dollars and private payer dollars. We also extend them all manner of local tax breaks, and it is not enough! It will never be enough. Until we have the courage to empower the patient and loosen the regulations which have allowed their empire-building, it will never be enough,” the Speaker noted.
“But if, God forbid, you are involved in an accident on your way home today, you will be in the hands of good people who will work hard to save your life. The organizations they work for will gouge you on every good and service they deem appropriate.”
“Common items like gauze, IV bags and needles will be charged to you at sometimes hundreds of times their original cost. And should you fail to pay, you will find yourself among the millions of Americans who have been made bankrupt as a result of exorbitant medical bills. It is unquestionably the single greatest threat to our solvency,” Oliva thundered.
Higher education, with big spending and growth, also recalls that edict for Oliva.
“Our shared desire to see everyone reach the highest level of education they can achieve has allowed for excesses and created a student debt crisis,” the Speaker noted. ” Our focus must be in ensuring these institutions will have the sustainability to exist in perpetuity.”
The stakes are high.
“I look forward to working together with all of the members of this House to once again pass a budget with a reduced per capita spending, a robust tax break, and a stronger commitment to our reserve balances. I hope this decade does not bring the kind of economic turmoil the last one did, but our actions today will determine how quickly our state will recover,” Oliva said.
Oliva toes the line against spending. He’s a No on VISIT FLORIDA, for example. Even the $50 million compromise agreed to last year, to keep the agency running, is a non-starter from his initial negotiation position.
“It’s a case study in reality versus perception,” the Speaker said to media Tuesday afternoon.
However, there are some indications that he may move, to a point, on the issue of increased teacher compensation.
The Speaker said: “There are areas where more resources are in order. Our Governor has made the environment a major priority, and we will continue to offer our support to his efforts. He has also tasked us with finding ways to increase teacher pay. This house pledges to work toward a significant, equitable, and sustainable proposal that can also accommodate wage increases in other critical areas.”
DeSantis may not get his desired $47,500 baseline salary for teachers, but Oliva at least seems willing to negotiate the point. In remarks to media Tuesday afternoon, the Governor expressed confidence in that as a starting point.
The Speaker also vowed to support the Governor’s ambitious environmental agenda.
Oliva struck a conciliatory note in remarks to media, conceding that DeSantis had a “bully pulpit” when asked about the second-year give and take between Republican leaders.
“We’re fans of his too,” Oliva added.