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2020 Session Opening Day: Audrey Gibson, Kionne McGhee respond to State of the State

Democrats are left wanting over teachers, the environment and criminal justice.

The Legislature’s Democratic leaders said Tuesday Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 2020 plan makes the same priorities and promises as last year’s. 

Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson issued her party’s first response to the Governor’s State of the State address on the Session’s first day. House Democratic Leader Rep. Kionne McGhee followed his Senate counterpart. 

Quipping at DeSantis’ proposed $91.4 billion “Bolder, Brighter, Better Future” budget, Gibson said his promises from last year remain unfulfilled. 

“Our new decade has a slim chance for a fresh, bolder start because talking a good game but never putting much effort in moving the ball toward the goal line is not a win for Floridians,” Gibson said. 

McGhee, of Cutler Bay, said this millennium has not brought the protections Floridians need.

“Since 2000, our budget has nearly doubled from $50 billion to over $90 billion, and you’re correctly wondering where all this money has gone when there still exist struggling schools, low wages, a threatened environment and no pathway upwards,” McGhee said. 

Gibson, of Jacksonville noted Florida should lead on education, innovation, combatting climate change and protecting seniors. 

“All of these are our priorities as Democrats,” Gibson said. “They should be the Governor’s, too.” 

DeSantis has planned $600 million to go toward teacher pay raises. But the Senate Minority Leader said it doesn’t go far enough. 

“They know the Governor is leaving half of their colleagues out of proposed salary increases even though they’ve worked arm in arm, committed to educating our children, despite years without any additional salary consideration,” Gibson said. 

On prescription drug costs, she said the Governor’s Canadian drug importation plan will bring some savings for the state government through Medicaid and the Department of Corrections, but that it’s not enough.

“The cost of prescription drugs continues to soar, but the best the Governor has offered over the past year is a plan to import drugs from Canada,” Gibson said. 

Gibson also blasted DeSantis on Amendment 4 implementation. She said ex-felons in Florida expected to start the new decade with the restoration of voting rights. 

“But since Amendment 4’s passage, the Governor has done everything in his power to undo the people’s will,” Gibson said. “And nothing in his speech today gave us any hope that he was going to change, and honor his commitment to uphold the constitution.” 

Written By

Renzo Downey covers the Florida Legislature for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

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