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Senate President Bill Galvano Talks Visit Florida, Teacher & State Worker Pay Hikes, And More

Ryan Dailey

Senate President Bill Galvano had breakfast with members of the Capitol press corps Tuesday, fielding questions on (just about) everything under the Sunshine. Here are a few of the matters Galvano weighed in on:

Visit Florida:

As the leader of the Florida House calls for the state tourism wing, Visit Florida, to be dissolved, Senate President Bill Galvano sees value in the agency. Critics say the Sunshine State markets itself by way of its reputation as a tourist destination – but Galvano says Visit Florida goes beyond just enticing visitors.

There are certain things that we do have to message and mitigate, for example whether its Zika, which cost our tourism agency million – tens of millions of dollars. You have red tide issues, algae, hurricanes – things that are important to re-message or explain. Just a straight-up advertising, “come to Florida”, I would agree with you, we have private business interests who do a good job of that on their own.”

Speaker of the House Jose Oliva wrote a strongly-worded editorial calling for Visit Florida to shutter earlier this month. In it, he calls the agency a “waste” of the $30 million dollars the legislature funded it with in the 2019 session.

Teacher Pay:

Galvano says he’s wary of the state trying to take a “one size fits all” approach to raising teacher pay. That’s in response to Governor Ron DeSantis’ pitch to boost starting teacher pay to $47,500 – an investment of roughly $600 million.

“It is a local issue, it truly is,” Galvano said. “And when we increase the BSA (base student allocation, or flexible funding for districts) as we did last year, one of the initial things that we did was look at what districts actually did increase pay. And we’re pleased to see that a majority actually did. I’m cautious about us owning that issue at the state level. So that is part of the analysis that’s taking place.”

The outgoing chamber president acknowledges different districts have different levels of pay for teachers, and different costs of living in their areas. He says Republican Senators Manny Diaz and Kelli Stargel, chairs of key education committees, are trying to figure out a plan to give districts autonomy in raising pay.

Florida Forever funding:

Amid an increasing push by environmentalist groups to boost funding to Florida Forever, the state’s land acquisition program, Governor Ron DeSantis is recommending $100 million in the upcoming budget go to the fund. Galvano says he’s on board with that:

“I support the Governor’s approach on that. I think it’s an important program, and in talking with chair Bradley – we’re looking at our budget numbers, and we’ll have our final numbers really early in session. But to the extent that we can meet that commitment, I’m in favor of it.”

DeSantis’ budget ask for Florida Forever may not be enough to appease environmental groups, however. Florida Conservation Voters executive director Aliki Moncrief says fully funding Florida Forever would take a $300 million investment.

State Worker Pay Raise:

Though the governor doesn’t have an across the board pay raise for state workers among his budget asks – Galvano says the idea is on the table in his chamber.

"We have also looked at very specific subsets, for example people that work within the DOC and other areas. So it’s not off the table to take a look at how we are paying our state workers," he told reporters Tuesday.

When Galvano was asked whether an across-the-board pay raise was still an option, he said it is.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.