House and Senate budget negotiators offered to spend $1.16 million for an office of election crimes and security, staffed with 15 employees, as part of the latest spending plan.
The office is part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal to have a new election crimes enforcement unit to go after voter fraud. The funding and number of workers dedicated to it, however, are short of the $5.7 million and 52 staff members he sought.
Another major DeSantis proposal — placing a moratorium on the state’s 25-cents-per-gallon gas tax for five months starting July 1 — is not included in either chamber’s proposals. Neither the House nor the Senate’s transportation budgets account for temporarily nixing the gas tax, and none of the tax cut proposals forwarded by either chamber include the gas tax moratorium.
DeSantis floated the plan last year as a way to counter rampant inflation, which he blames on President Joe Biden’s policies. The Governor said the plan would save consumers about $1 billion.
But Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican, has sounded skeptical of the idea. He has preferred to find tax cuts targeted to Florida residents instead of the large amount of tourists who would benefit from the gas tax moratorium. House Speaker Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican, has made similar statements but wouldn’t rule out the issue coming up during budget negotiations.
“Our priority in the House budget as reflected in our tax package is to make sure tax cuts were received by Floridians,” Sprowls told reporters last week.
Sprowls instead pointed to the House’s budget bill to set up a $2 billion trust fund to account for inflation costs for state agencies. The proposal, however, wouldn’t provide the relief for consumers DeSantis wants. The Budgeting for Inflation that Drives Elevated Needs (BIDEN) fund, was to receive $2 billion in the House bill, HB 5011. But the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday amended it to remove the title and make the trust fund subject to budget negotiations between the chambers.