Gov. Ron DeSantis will take a heavy-handed approach to the budget for the state’s next fiscal year in the face of revenue shortfalls from the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s going to be a lot more vetoes. It’ll be a lot of red,” DeSantis warned.
His colorful picture: “It’s kind of the veto equivalent of the Red Wedding from ‘Game of Thrones.'”
This Session, the Governor earned wins on teacher pay raises, the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund and environmental funding. But even some of those priorities, including state employee pay raises, are put under pressure with the Governor looking to cut between a half to a full billion dollars.
Some items from his budget could get the ax, but he dismissed the possibility of something as big as teacher pay raises getting nixed.
“We want to obviously deliver as many of the priorities as we can, but it’s just a situation where I created a budget under certain assumptions and conditions,” DeSantis said. “The Legislature did a budget under certain assumptions and conditions, and even though the pandemic was here once we laid the budget on the desk, there was a radical change between that second week of March in terms of the messaging coming out of places like Washington where they said you could go on a cruise, you can still go to a campaign rally. And then it seemed like a week or ten days later, shut everything down.”
As for a Special Session, the Governor said the cuts he’ll make to the budget will be sufficient to keep the budget afloat, at least through November.
“There’s going to be things that are in my budget that I’m definitely going to veto just because the fiscal picture’s different,” he said.
DeSantis has until the end of the month to sign the budget, which will kick in for the start of the next fiscal year on July 1.
Lawmaker’s approved version has still not officially reached his desk since he asked legislative leaders in March to hold on to the $93.2 billion spending plan to buy time for the economy to track its course and for Congress to outline federal assistance.
Florida’s tax revenue returned $878.1 million, or 29.4%, less than anticipated, for April amid the opening volley of the pandemic. Those shortcomings wiped out the more than $200 million surplus generated in the first three months of 2020.
April’s report largely reflects sales tax receipts from March, before the state entered its lockdown. The May report, coming later this month, will likely show a larger revenue hit than the nearly $900 million from the month prior.
“I think we probably are going to recover hopefully quicker than maybe we thought two months ago, but between the vetoes, and I’m going to hold back some agency spending, and then we have identified some CARES Act money which will be able to be used,” DeSantis said. “I have no worries about us getting to the election.”
The Florida TaxWatch last week flagged $136.3 million from 180 “budget turkeys” that it says weren’t fully vetted in the Legislature’s plan. But on top of those budget items, the watchdog group recommended the Governor veto all member projects, even outside of the turkeys, unless it is vital to Floridians, such as health care projects.