Given that more than a billion dollars in budget cuts were rolled out Monday by Gov. Ron DeSantis, it was expected that Senate Democrats would find fault.
On Monday, they expressed themselves, saying they were looped out of the process, one held “behind closed doors.” Beyond that, they questioned everything from the constitutionality to the ethics of the cuts.
Sen. Gary Farmer, incoming caucus leader, expressed “disappointment in not being part of a collaborative process” negotiating the cuts from “one of the most people-friendly budgets” in state history.
“We all knew that significant revenue reductions would occur … that we would be at least a few billion dollars short,” Farmer said.
Calls for a Special Session went unanswered, Farmer noted, and “the vast majority” of cuts are “coming on the backs” of local projects and programs.
Farmer suggested that the budget cuts could be unconstitutional, as well as the decision to take federal CARES Act money, “put it into general revenue, and spend it as they see fit.”
Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez said “if there was dialogue, it was with the presiding officers behind closed doors.”
Rodriguez conceded that it’s the Governor’s constitutional authority to make cuts, but as Farmer said, appropriations are another matter.
Rodriguez also noted that a lot of the cuts could have been defrayed by rolling back more than $500 million in corporate tax cuts.
Sen. Janet Cruz expressed disquiet with education funding cuts, “a broken record that we continue to complain about that never seems to end.”
“It took a historic downturn for the Governor to realize how misguided the appropriation was for the Guardian fund,” Cruz said, regarding $41 million for the school hardening program that never got allocated.
Cruz also questioned the constitutionality of the Governor’s spending of the federal relief funds and echoed complaints of being “left out of this process.”
Sen. Lori Berman noted a “lot of cuts to local programs … programs that are filling the gap right now.”
Social services cuts “are going to hurt the people who still haven’t been able to get unemployment benefits from the state,” she said.
Farmer said he expected more cuts to come.