Pointing to a need to further brace the state against a potential recession, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued $3.13 billion in vetoes as he signed a record $109.9 billion budget for the fiscal year that will begin July 1.
Among the large vetoes were $650 million for a new 4,500-bed prison; $195 million for construction of a prison hospital; $50 million for construction of a courthouse for the new 6th District Court of Appeal; $35 million for a sports complex in Pasco County that was expected to become a spring-training facility for the Tampa Bay Rays; and $20 million a year that was included in a budget-related bill for a H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center facility in Pasco County.
Also cut in budget-related “conforming” bills were $31.3 million for two airplanes that would have transported state leaders and a $1 billion pot of money to serve as a hedge against increased government costs driven by inflation.
Gov. DeSantis, who is running for re-election in November and is widely considered a 2024 presidential contender, criticized President Joe Biden as he described the new state budget (HB 5001) during a signing ceremony at the Eisenhower Regional Pool & Recreation Center in The Villages, a Republican stronghold.
“What we’re doing in the budget is making sure that we’re meeting the obligations and making sure we’re funding key priorities, but also protecting the state against what very well may be a Biden-induced recession,” Gov. DeSantis said.
Gov. DeSantis did not take questions during what had been announced as a news conference.
In veto letters, Gov. DeSantis wrote that the proposed airplane purchases were “an inadvisable expense, especially under current economic conditions.” Also, he wrote that a proposed 30-year commitment for the Moffitt Pasco County Life Science Park “inhibits budget flexibility.”
With the vetoes freeing up additional money, the governor’s office estimated reserves topping $16 billion as the 2022-2023 fiscal year prepares to get underway.
In 2021, Gov. DeSantis slashed $1.5 billion in proposed spending.
House Democrats, meanwhile, issued a statement that said the budget doesn’t do enough to address health care, education and affordable housing.
“The governor doesn’t like to mention this, but Florida’s budget includes nearly $40 billion in federal money this year,” incoming House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said. “It’s unfortunate that despite having record cash to work with, we couldn’t do more for Floridians struggling with a housing crisis and global inflation.”
While the state has benefited from tax revenues that have exceeded expectations, the new budget, which the Legislature passed in March, is also bolstered by $3.46 billion in federal stimulus money.
Gov. DeSantis already approved a tax package that will reduce state and local revenues by $804.3 million during the upcoming fiscal year. The package includes a series of sales-tax “holidays” on such things as school clothes, outdoor activities and tools, and a suspension of the state gas tax in October. A tax holiday on hurricane supplies is already underway through June 10. ¦