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Raises in state budget getting new scrutiny

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried came out swinging at Thursday's Florida Cabinet meeting; however, her requests fell on deaf ears. (MGN)
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried came out swinging at Thursday's Florida Cabinet meeting; however, her requests fell on deaf ears. (MGN)(WJHG)
Published: Jun. 11, 2020 at 6:04 PM EDT
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By: Capitol News Service

June 11, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) — While Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Commissioner of Education Thursday pushed to fully open schools this fall, the governor still hasn’t received the new budget, which takes effect in July.

In it are significant raises for teachers and others, but those raises may no longer be something the state can afford.

Florida lawmakers set aside $500 million for teacher raises, another $400 million for state employees, and $54 million for an additional boost for correctional officers.

But with the pandemic, all bets are off.

In late March, the Governor, without being asked, put the teacher raises in play.

“You look at the teacher compensation, obviously, we put a lot into that. And we’ll see what happens with the budget, but that’s important,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.

April’s revenue expectations were down more than $800 million.

May’s numbers are likely to be just as bad.

Enter Florida TaxWatch.

It is recommending at least $136 million in vetoes of projects that did not get proper review.

There is also $500 million in member projects that could be in their sights.

“We’re asking the Governor to take a close look at all member projects,” said Kurt Wenner with Florida TaxWatch.

To make up pandemic losses, TaxWatch is also recommending the state sign a new gaming deal with the Seminole Tribe.

TaxWatch President Dominic Calabro estimates collecting sales taxes from online sales could yield more than $1 billion.

“I suspect by the second or third year, we’re looking at $2 billion,” said Calabro.

A new gaming deal and collecting taxes already owed on remote sales could together raise almost $3 billion a year after fully implemented.

Asked specifically about whether it would recommend vetoing the raises, Calabro said it’s a possibility.

“We’ll be looking at those, among many others-among many others. We’ll be looking at all of those things. Everything is and should be on the table,” said Calabro.

The state does have over $4 billion in reserves and that much and more from federal pandemic relief, but that may not be enough to cover the economic damage expected for months to come.

Copyright 2020 Capitol News Service. All rights reseved.

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