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Florida's Budget Outlook Worsens Amid Frustration With State's Coronavirus Response

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WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Florida recently hit a record number of COVID-19 cases recorded in a single day. Friday brought more bad news—the state’s budget picture has gone from bad, to worse, as Governor Ron DeSantis maintains he’s got it under control.

Florida’s new fiscal year starts next Wednesday with a $93 billion budget. But DeSantis has promised vetoes are coming. A week ago, he likened cuts to the equivalent of the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones.

"There’s going to be things in my budget that I’m definitely going to veto,” he told reporters.

Ahead of an expected veto announcement, DeSantis went ahead with promised pay raises for teachers.

“Although we have not made every decision about the budget, I can report This will be there 100%. We’re going to have to make tough choices, but this is important," he said, signing off on a bill that secures the pay increases.

Days after DeSantis held a bill signing ceremony at a school in South Florida, the state's budget picture went from bad to worse. An anticipated $870 million budget shortfall has ballooned to $1.46 billion, state economists reported. While the budget hole is getting bigger, the number of coronavirus cases is growing, and Democrats, who have felt locked out of decision-making, are raising their voices higher.

“Just lead, dammit. Just lead. You know it’s like the Carol King song, ‘If you lead, I’ll follow.' There’s no leadership here," lamented Democratic state Sen. Janet Cruz.

“A meteor could hit South Florida and they would not bring us back to Tallahassee. I’m willing to put a large wager…on the fact that we are not going back to Tallahassee. They do not want to see us," said Democratic state Sen. Oscar Braynon.

Calls for DeSantis to slow the state’s reopening plans are also growing. Texas, a state Florida likes to compare itself to—has announced it’s putting reopening on hold. DeSantis has maintained he doesn’t believe that’s necessary for Florida, though he's cracking down on bars that are over the state's current capacity limits.

“Would shutting down the state stop some of the examples I’ve shown? I don’t think so. You have to have society function, to have a cohesive society, that’s the best way to deal with the impacts of the virus, but particularly when you have a virus that disproportionally impacts one segment of society—to suppress a lot of working age people at this point, I don’t think would be very effective.

Still, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has ordered all bars to stop serving alcohol. Secretary Halsey Beshears calls it a “prudent” response to the surge in infections.