House Democrats call for Florida's next budget to be 'people-centered'

'We're going to be much better for their prosperity,' Rep. Evan Jenne says
Posted at 3:51 PM, Dec 07, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As the governor readies the release of his 2022 budget proposal, Florida Democrats are calling for a more "people-centered" agenda.

A coalition of House members put out that call Tuesday morning in hopes that Gov. Ron DeSantis would fund different priorities in the coming fiscal year.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, felt the budget, expected to be around $101 billion, needed more of a focus on "real people."

"For the last three years under the governor's administration, and previous governors as well, the budget tends to lean in favor of the biggest of corporations, political donors," she said. "Not so much the interests of everyday people."

Rep. Anna Eskamani speaks on Gov. DeSantis' budget
Rep. Anna Eskamani discusses the issues she has with the governor's budget.

The group urged DeSantis:

  • Cut down on corporate tax breaks 
  • Boost wages for all ed faculty and staff
  • Bolster affordable housing
  • Address the cost of health care and insurance

Minority Co-Leader Evan Jenne, D-Hollywood, said Democrats would keep up the pressure throughout the lawmaking session, set to begin in several weeks.

"Looking at the numbers, taking all politics out of it, we're going to be much better for their prosperity," Jenne said. "Much better for their health, and we're going to be much better if you're just a human being walking around in the state of Florida."

Their push comes just before DeSantis offers his full-budget proposal, anticipated sometime this week.

Rep. Evan Jenne speaks about the governor's budget
Rep. Evan Jenne shares his thoughts on the budget proposals for the next fiscal year.

Over the last month, the Republican has said he wants higher per-student funding, better starting teacher pay, money for water and resiliency projects, military upgrades, a gas tax cut and more.

"We're probably going to have higher budget reserves than we've ever had in the state of Florida," DeSantis said during a press event near Tampa on Tuesday.

He went on to tout his plans as a budget for all, with a price tag less than half the cost of New York's despite similar sizes.

"We have the lowest per capita tax burden in the United States," DeSantis said. "We are doing things that matter, that are helping Floridians across the board. And we're being very aggressive on that."

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference held in Oldsmar, Florida, on Dec. 7, 2021.
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference held in Oldsmar, Florida, on Dec. 7, 2021.

The governor's press secretary also fired back at House Democrats, following their press conference.

In a statement, Christina Pushaw said it was "illogical" to consider DeSantis' policies politically motivated rather than "people-centered."

She referenced his resistance to COVID mandates as one example.

"Protecting individual rights is the most 'people-centered' thing a state governor can possibly do," Pushaw said. "By contrast, it is not very 'people-centered' for Democrats to fight for the rights of woke corporations and city governments to fire workers over COVID vaccine mandates, or to force kindergarteners to cover their faces for 8 hours a day regardless of their parents’ concerns."

Lawmakers will have their say on the budget when the regular session begins in January. But, with the GOP in charge, it seems a safe bet much of the governor's plans will get a green light.