Don’t let political revenge dictate budget vetoes

Dissent is essential to democracy.

Punishing dissent is essential for the Ron DeSantis brand.

Just ask Disney, who is dealing with the loss of the special district that allowed him to stand out for municipal services. Ask faculty members at state universities who are facing tenure issues. Or ask school board members in 12 counties, including Orange and Brevard and elsewhere, who faced threats and retaliation for insisting on protecting students with COVID-19 mask mandates.

When challenged, DeSantis goes on a rampage. That’s what bullies do.

This is what makes the governor’s use of the per-item veto power in the new budget worth watching.

The Florida Legislature will soon send DeSantis a $112.1 billion budget. It is by far the largest in state history and represents an increase in spending of about 20% in the past two years alone. The budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year was $92.2 billion. So much for fiscal conservatism among ruling Republicans in Tallahassee.

With an irresistible federal windfall of billions from President Joe Biden’s US bailout, state lawmakers have gone on a spending spree with our money like never before. They still had enough to hand out lavish tax breaks to the state’s largest and wealthiest corporations and pocket $8 billion in reserves.

On a positive note, state employees will get 5.4% wage increases, every state employee will earn at least $15 an hour, and teachers and first responders will get pay raises. special salary. But lawmakers couldn’t find enough money for more than a month of gas tax relief for cash-strapped motorists, and they stubbornly refused again to expand Medicaid for help the uninsured.

The budget headed to DeSantis’ office is stuffed with a record number of district-tailored projects from individual lawmakers — more than 1,200 projects in total worth $2.8 billion, according to the annual report on ” Florida TaxWatch’s budget turkeys. That’s about twice as many member projects as in the current budget, and as many as all of the total projects in the last five budgets combined, TaxWatch found.

The new budget includes a $106 million research park in Pasco County, the home of Senate Speaker Wilton Simpson, and a $35 million sports complex in Pasco that would be a future spring training home for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Other projects are brick-and-mortar, like a new $3.5 million police station in South Miami, or for a range of worthy human services such as $1 million for access to health care. for veterans at clinics operated by Nova Southeastern University in Broward.

Project Nova appears to be politically safe because its sponsor was Senator Manny Diaz Jr., a Republican from Hialeah who was just picked by DeSantis as Florida’s new commissioner of education.

Each bill is named after a lawmaker, and dozens of other bills vetoed by the article are championed by Democratic lawmakers who also voted against its priorities, such as a 15-week abortion ban, the so-called “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” a new election police force, a path to censorship of textbooks and library books, and a racist congressional redistricting map that eliminates two black access districts.

The line veto is DeSantis’ weapon to exact revenge on these Democratic dissidents by punishing them and their constituents in their wallets.

But DeSantis won’t have many opportunities to vent his anger at Orange County, which is almost entirely represented by Democrats. This was evident in the handful of member projects his delegation managed to win.

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Do you think that’s right? Consider this: Orange County is second only to Miami-Dade County in the amount of sales tax revenue it collects. He sent nearly $307 million to Tallahassee in March alone. For simple reasons of economic justice, the county deserved far more than it was allocated.

Yet there are fears that local projects are being targeted. Several Democratic lawmakers, outraged by the Congressional map, staged a House sit-in on April 21 that briefly delayed floor votes. Among the protesters: Representatives Tray McCurdy, Anna Eskamani, Carlos Guillermo-Smith and Daisy Morales, who each represent a portion of Orange County. Of the four, only one – Morales – managed to get member projects on budget. If any of his credits are vetoed, will anyone wonder why?

According to a detailed House staff spreadsheet provided to the Sun Sentinel, the vast majority of member projects have been sponsored by Republicans, with $457 million out of $483 million, an incredible 95% of the total. Room.

That level of imbalance is wrong in a chamber of the House where more than a third of Florida’s population lives in districts represented by Democrats — and each district has roughly the same number of Floridians. But that’s no surprise in this era of hyper-partisan, top-down governance in Tallahassee.

Certainly, there is waste in this budget. DeSantis has a duty to remove it, especially drafts that have escaped scrutiny or been inserted by a single powerful legislator.

But every one of his article rejections should be justified by sound politics, not politics. Dissent is essential in a democracy, especially with this governor.

The Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board includes Managing Editor Julie Anderson, Opinion Editor Krys Fluker, Viewpoints Managing Editor Jay Reddick, and El Sentinel Managing Editor Jennifer Marcial Ocasio. The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board is comprised of Editorial Page Editor Steve Bousquet, Editorial Page Associate Editor Dan Sweeney, and Anderson. To contact us, email [email protected]

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