Florida Governor Ron DeSantis approved Florida’s $101.5 billion budget, which includes a large chunk of Covid-19 federal relief funds from the American Relief Plan, which DeSantis once described as “Washington at its worst.”
Most of the approximately $9 billion federal relief funds will go to police, teachers and first responders, including $1,000 bonus checks for teachers, principals and first responders. Florida was able to increase its budget from last year by more than $9 billion, in large part due to the federal funds, combined with additional revenue the state generated beyond what state economists had predicted. Before the federal funds were allocated, the state was facing a crisis with its education budget and an overall budget shortfall of $3 billion.
But during a press conference Wednesday, DeSantis tried only to give credit to the Republicans in the legislature (who largely opposed the federal funds) and himself for reopening the state economy.
“Part of the reason we’re here is because we’ve had good stewards in the legislature who spend conservatively; and responsibly, but also the fact that Florida has schools open, businesses open and people having the right to work,” DeSantis said. “That has made all the difference.”
The Florida GOP even tweeted last week, trying to give DeSantis credit for the bonuses that were part of the federal relief. “Thank you for going the extra mile to keep our kids in the classroom!” the party wrote.
Democrats were quick to correct DeSantis. “You wouldn’t know it from [the governor’s] press conference, but Florida’s budget was bolstered by billions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress and signed into law by [President Biden],” Florida Democratic House co-leader Bobby DuBose tweeted. “That money, and the additional billions sent to local communities, avoided a potential budget crisis and will help jump-start Florida’s recovery. It’s unfortunate that more of those dollars won’t go directly into the pockets of Floridians to aid our state’s recovery.”
Republican Rep. Charlie Crist, a former Florida governor who is running against DeSantis for the position in 2022, also criticized him for taking credit. “While Governor DeSantis will try to claim credit today, the truth is that he opposed the American Rescue Plan,” Crist said in a statement. “He opposed the funding that is providing bonuses to teachers and first responders. He opposed the funding that is helping cities and schools recover from a challenging year. And he opposed the direct relief checks that were a lifeline as our economy recovers.”
DeSantis also vetoed $1.35 billion in federal relief funds as well as $900,000 in funding for programs that serve the LGBTQ population in Central Florida — included in those vetoed funds was $150,000 for a mental health services program dedicated to survivors and family members of victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
As one survivor, Brandon Wolf, tweeted, “Here’s [Governor DeSantis] in 2019, standing on hallowed ground, promising me that he would always support those of us impacted by the Pulse nightclub shooting. Today, he vetoed mental health services for us. I will never forget.”
Here’s @GovRonDeSantis in 2019, standing on hallowed ground, promising me that he would always support those of us impacted by the Pulse nightclub shooting.
Today, he vetoed mental health services for us. I will never forget. pic.twitter.com/huW8NJbVlP
— Brandon Wolf (@bjoewolf) June 2, 2021