Gov. DeSantis going to ‘let the budget sit for now’

Legislation on hold as Florida governor responds to COVID-19 outbreak

(News Service of Florida)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis said he isn’t in a rush to review the $93.2 billion budget or nearly 200 other bills recently approved by the Legislature as he focuses on the fight against COVID-19.

DeSantis also told reporters Wednesday that the state might not have to dip deep into its nearly $4 billion in reserves with President Donald Trump declaring earlier in the day that a major disaster exists in Florida.

“I’m just going to let the budget sit for now. I’m not going to start vetoing everything, and I’m not going to sign it yet,” DeSantis said. “Let’s see where we are, and let’s kind of see how the situation unfolds. This is a constant thing where you are reassessing everything you know.”

Trump’s declaration makes federal funding available to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts.

DeSantis said the state could also benefit from a federal stimulus package. But questions center on how long state sales-tax revenues will slump with businesses, including the vital tourism industry, on hold.

“The hit to the budget will just simply be an effect of what happens with the economy,” DeSantis said. “How does this thing turn? When does it turn? So, we are going to monitor that and see how the next few weeks turn out. Then we’ll make a decision on that.”

The budget, which includes a $500 million for teacher pay increases, and 196 other measures technically haven’t been sent to the governor’s office.

“We’re a significant part of that budget this year,” said Florida Education Association President, Fedrick Ingram.

Ingram hopes the governor considers the role teachers are playing throughout the outbreak, including their shift to online learning.

“I think if you put out any survey, parents will tell you that teachers are first responders. They’re educational first responders,” said Ingram.

The governor did say he doesn’t want to jeopardize teacher pay but also doesn’t want to act hastily during these uncertain times.

“That would not be where I would want to go, but look I think the budget is in flux. Let’s just put it that way,” DeSantis said.

When DeSantis receives bills, he has 15 days to sign, veto or allow them to become law without his signature. He also has line-item veto power on the budget.

If signed, the teacher pay raises would take effect July 1.

DeSantis’ comments Wednesday echoed statements this week by House and Senate officials, who said the chambers are working to pace the delivery of the bills around the state’s response to the highly contagious and deadly disease.

The governor has also chosen to delay the appointment of two Florida Supreme Court justices. The appointments were required to be selected by Monday, March 23.