Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the first bills of the 2022 Legislative Session on Thursday — two proposals creating a $500 million rainy day fund in the Governor’s name.
The fund will provide DeSantis — and subsequent governors — with a designated pot of money to use during a state of emergency.
Zephyrhills Republican Rep. Danny Burgess is the bill sponsor. Republican Rep. Dana Trabulsy of Fort Pierce carried the companion bill.
“This bill gives the Governor the flexibility to respond quickly to all emergencies,” Trabulsy said. “It gives us time to respond to the emergency while protecting our power to appropriate and protect our reserve.”
While proponents maintained the fund would install “guardrails” around executive spending, critics — which included many Democrats — feared the proposal could become an executive “slush fund.”
Burgess fought the assertion all Session.
“All levels of government are coming together to make sure that going forward, it’s not just a blank check,” Burgess told senators.
Critics further contend the pot of money is unneeded. The current system, they argued, works without issue.
Bill sponsors originally pitched a $1 billion fund, but later amended the proposal after sizable criticism.
2022 marks the Legislature’s second attempt to create the emergency fund. Last year, Republicans marched the proposal onto the Governor’s desk. The federal government, however, disrupted the plan.
Lawmakers initially wanted to create the fund with money from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan. The federal government, though, released guidance saying the fund was an inappropriate use of the money. DeSantis subsequently vetoed the proposal.
While lawmakers disagreed on the fund, one fact was widely accepted: Emergencies aren’t cheap.
Past major emergencies have cost the state well over $1 billion, according to a staff analysis. In response to Hurricanes Irma and Michael, the state spent $3 billion each.
Florida has spent roughly $2 billion on COVID-19 response, according to recent estimates.