Rep. Travis Cummings, a member of the Governor’s Re-Open Florida Task Force, discussed the path forward with constituents Wednesday.
Cummings, the House Appropriations Chair, offered comments at the front of the call, addressing recent improvements in the unemployment system and expressing confidence that the state’s budget may not be completely destroyed by the coronavirus.
He addressed topics with typical candor but walked the line one would expect from a legislator waiting for a budget to be signed.
“This makes the 2008 recession look light,” Cummings said, acknowledging the progress regarding the “antiquated” website, which he (following the cue of U.S. Sen. Rick Scott) said dated from the Charlie Crist years.
“DeSantis inherited it,” Cummings said, and it “failed miserably.”
Cummings noted that the state is not having a “financial problem” but an issue in “getting dollars out, getting claims reviewed.”
There are “horror stories out there,” Cummings said, as people play the “waiting game.”
“We keep pounding the drum,” he noted.
Cummings was confident that the state’s budget would be more or less intact, given federal relief funds and the state’s healthy reserves pre-COVID-19.
The state “had about $4 billion in operating reserves” and “got near $5 billion from the federal government as part of the stimulus package.”
That will help with cash flow, a necessary boost given the sales tax shortfall.
“We’re faring well by being fiscally responsible,” Cummings said, noting still that a return to Tallahassee may be required.
The Governor has “not asked for the budget,” Cummings said, but has “hinted there could be more vetoes than usual.”
“Now we’re spending money, trust me. I see these reports: millions of masks, gowns, testing kits … purchase orders from DEM at $300-400 million a clip,” Cummings noted.
That money may be a sunk cost for a while.
“FEMA Reimbursement takes a while to get here,” Cummings, a master of understatement, noted.