Florida lawmakers extended their legislative session by one day to do the one thing they’re constitutionally required to do—pass a budget. Lawmakers held a final vote for their spending plan Saturday before adjourning Sine Die.
Rep. Travis Cummings (R-Orange Park) led the House through its budgeting process. He says he’s proud of the work his chamber did, but admits tough choices were made.
“You know there was a lot of discussion on what’s enough. What’s enough to give to the Panhandle? What’s enough for education? What’s enough for pay raises? And I’m here to tell you that we obviously have got to balance the budget. We only have so many means. The more we give to the hurricane, the more we give to education, is obviously going to have an effect on how much we’re going to have for education, how much we’re going to have for the environment,” Cummings says.
The final budget includes about $220 million earmarked specifically for the Panhandle areas impacted by Hurricane Michael. The money will go to fix roads and infrastructure, help build affordable housing and help prop up schools that saw a sharp decrease in enrollment. But Cummings, who says he worked closely with Rep. Jay Trumbull (R-Panama City) says he understands the impacted communities still need more and he’s already looking toward next year.
“Chair Trumbull is in a situation with a devastating blow to his home and his community in Bay County. Is that enough we did for him with the hurricane? Well I’m sure he would like more, but let me tell you he led with a steady hand. He led throughout and he recognized we were consistent with what we did with hurricane Irma and others and we have more to do when we come back,” Cummings says.
Gov. Ron DeSantis is pushing for more relief from the federal government and says he’s hoping President Donald Trump’s rally planned for Wednesday in Panama City Beach is a signal of good news.
“When I went and met with him I had two asks. One was 45 days of 100 percent reimbursement. He gave us that. The other was up the cost share for all reimbursement from 75% to 90%. So we’re asking him to do that. I think he wants to do it," DeSantis says. "Why would you want to come unless you’re going to announce more good news?
Meanwhile, just because lawmakers have held their final vote on the budget, that doesn’t mean the spending plan is final. The governor is already hinting he plans to use his line item veto power.
“Obviously there’s certain things government shouldn’t be doing at any level. If that’s in there that’s going to be a candidate. There’s somethings that maybe government should be doing but should be local and not state government. Then there’s other things that may have some merit, but I have to weigh if it would be better to put that money into reserves because I do think we need to prepare for the economy not being as strong as it is right now. We’re really fortunate to have a strong economy,” DeSantis says.
Senate President Bill Galvano says he hopes DeSantis considers any vetoes carefully.
“You know I don’t look at the individual programs that we fund that are maybe district specific as anything more than needed things that Senators have advocated for. So I hope that he really studies and understands what is there and gets to the bottom of it instead of making a statement in terms of a number to cut,” Galvano says.
Galvano points out the final budget is actually smaller than the budget the governor had proposed.