Feb 2, 2023

Ron DeSantis Promotes ‘Freedom Budget’ Transcript

Ron DeSantis Promotes 'Freedom Budget' Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsFreedom BudgetRon DeSantis Promotes ‘Freedom Budget’ Transcript

Ron DeSantis Promotes ‘Freedom Budget’ Amidst Uproar Over Banning AP African American Class. Read the transcript here.

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Governor Ron DeSantis (00:00):

Freedom budget for the state of Florida. Four years ago, I had the privilege of doing a governor’s budget recommendation in February of 2019, and at that time, people were excited about the direction of Florida. We were able to propose a budget that was really healthy all across the board. We had 5.2 billion in total reserves. We had $1.4 billion in unallocated general revenue. Our budget stabilization fund had $ 1.6 billion in it, and we were also proud to be able to propose tax relief of $335 million. When we did that, I remember people were happy. People said Florida is well managed and this is a very sound budget. Now, what’s happened since 2019? Well, we had a global pandemic. We’ve seen massive inflation like we haven’t seen in many, many decades. We saw shortages of key items like baby formula. We’ve seen supply chain disruptions and we’ve seen very, very high energy costs, and yet through all of that, Florida is stronger than ever.

We have 2.5% unemployment. Far below the national average, and that is with an expanding labor force, whereas you haven’t necessarily seen that in all other parts of the country. We’re number one in net in migration. We are now the fastest growing state in the United States, which is not easy to do when you already have 22 million people. We have some of the lowest per capita state tax burden and debt per capita of any state in all 50 states. We’re number one in new business formations and we’ve created over 425,000 private sector jobs in 2022 alone. So if we were here four years ago and people said that we would be able to propose what we’re proposing today, most people probably would’ve said that that wouldn’t have been possible. But if you would’ve told them everything that had happened in these four years, they definitely said it wouldn’t have been possible.

Well, today we’re able to propose this framework for freedom budget that has total reserves, whereas we were 5.2 billion four years ago, we’re able to propose total reserves of $15.7 billion, whereas we had unallocated general revenue four years ago at 1.4 billion Today, we’re able to propose 6.9 billion in unallocated general revenue. Our budget stabilization fund four years ago was 1.6 billion. Today we can propose that rainy day fund at 3.4 billion, and whereas we proposed $335 million in tax relief four years ago. Today we’re able to do $2 billion in tax relief, including the half a billion dollars we’ve already gotten signed into law with our Toll Relief Program. So that is strong performance that shows you that the state is going in the right direction. Now you’ll look at that and you see those reserves and that is 15.7 billion, not even accounting what the revenue is going to look like between now and the end of June.

They redid the revenue estimates last summer because we had been blowing past them, and so it’s like, okay, you got to figure out things are going well. We’re churning out a lot of revenue. We have people visiting, all this other stuff, home sales. So they upped it and they said, okay, we are expecting more revenue now. And yet every month since they did that, we far exceeded sometimes by a couple hundred million, sometimes by 500 million. So this budget doesn’t even include February, March, April, May, June, but even being very conservative, you’re looking at another billion, billion and a half on top of this. So probably end up over 17 billion. But that’s also taking out what we just proposed earlier this week with the Moving Florida Forward initiative. We’re in a situation where our state’s growing and not just for people moving here, all the people that visit here, we’ve been very strong on infrastructure historically in Florida, not just with me, but some of this stuff really needs to get moving.

And so we have very critical projects in places like Central Florida, Tampa Bay, South Florida, even the Panhandle, that are in the kitty that are being planned to be done but would take 20 some years to be able to do. So. We’re doing $7 billion, including four billion in general revenue this year to be able to accelerate that. So you’re going to have some of those programs that are going to be done a decade earlier than what it was ever doing. Had we not done that, you’d end up with well over 20 billion, 22 billion, somewhere around there, in total reserves.

And you don’t want to be like California where you have a massive budget shortfall. You want to be healthy, you want to make sure that you have strong reserves, but at the same time, when you’re in a situation where you have really persistent inflation, where you have a growing state where there’s infrastructure needs, you don’t want to just have all this money just sitting there, because that’s telling me that you’re not doing as good a job as you need to be doing, returning money back to the people with tax relief, meeting needs that are really, really significant.

And so we’re able to do all of this, still have those reserves where no one would have thought possible, but we’re doing really, really big things. So if you look at the tax relief, we already did the $500 million. I had promised that earlier last year, and we didn’t even have to wait till the regular session. We got it done in December because we thought it was important that people start off the year being able to get that. So starting this month, commuters are going to get a 50% rebate on all the tolls that they did if they have the SunPass or these other passes, and that’s going to save people hundreds of dollars this year and some people thousands, because you have some people that pay hundreds of dollars a month in tolls. So you take that bill from commuting, you cut that in half. That’s really, really significant, especially when you have inflation crunch.

We’re also doing permanent sales tax exclusions on all baby necessities, including cribs and strollers. It’s hard enough raising kids as it is. Now you get baby food, diapers, wipes, the whole baby clothes, the whole shebang, including things like cribs and strollers, which are very, very expensive. So that is going to be permanently tax free in the state of Florida. We’re also doing a permanent exclusion on all over the counter pet medications because they’re parts of our families too, and these are things that you need to do. So that’s going to give a lot of Floridians relief.

And then we just added, because I think it needs to be done, no tax permanently on gas stoves. They want your gas stove and we’re not going to let that happen, and we’re not even a state… The way Florida was built, a lot of this wasn’t even connected to gas lines, you got a lot of electric stuff, but it’s just the principle of this is ridiculous that they… And they do want to go after it. They got blow backs, so they kind of had to back off. They want to go after the gas stoves. And so we’re saying we want you to be able to buy those free of charge from the state of Florida for taxes.

We’re also doing one-year sales tax holidays for household items under $25. And so that’ll be everything from detergent to trash bags. These are necessities and people are going to be able to get those tax free. All dental hygiene products, tax free, all toiletries, tax free, children’s books, tax free, children’s toys, tax free, all kids athletic equipment, tax free, and I think something really, really great, no tax on pet food in the state of Florida.

So this is going to be really, really good for families in Florida. And if you do all this stuff, if a family commutes, if they have young kids and all this stuff, you’re talking potentially thousands of dollars in savings when all is said and done. So we’re proud to be able to produce that. We also have other tax relief that’s very, very significant. Over 140 million for small business relief. They have to file their sales tax every month, they get a $30 exclusion, we’re going to double that to 60. That’s going to save small businesses over $700 a year. We are doing not one, but two, back to school sales tax holidays. You have one for fall semester and then you have one for spring semester. And I know a lot of parents will appreciate that.

We’re going to continue doing our 14-day sales tax holiday for all disaster preparations as we saw this past year. You hope for the best. It was such a quiet hurricane season for the first few months and everyone’s like, man, as soon as people started saying, you know what, maybe we’re not going to get anything. That’s when you know had Ian form. Then of course we got hit with Nicole on the back end late in hurricane season. And so I think Floridians having seen that, realize it’s important to prepare, and so they’re going to have the ability to do that tax free.

We’re going to do 15-week sales tax for what we call the Freedom Summer. So this is outdoor recreation, this is tickets for events and museums, and really things so people can enjoy the summertime in the state of Florida. So this is something that’s really significant. So 500 million for the tolls, all these other tax provisions, it’s $1.5 billion. The state of Florida has never done that much in tax relief before. And oh, by the way, you see inflation going, it’s been really difficult in so many different things. You’re not seeing any inflation in Florida with our college tuition because we’re not allowing any tuition increases at our state universities or state colleges. We are the most affordable state in the country for higher education, and we’re going to keep it that way.

We also understand that you have to have a lean government, and so while there have been a lot of needs for positions in this area, that area, to meet the needs of a growing state, and those totaled over 667 positions that are needing to be fulfilled. And we did that, but we also did that by eliminating 707 positions. So our net reduction in full-time employees for state government is 46. And so we’re doing more for people, we’re doing where the needs are, but we’re not just having dead weight positions on, and so this is a net reduction in full-time employees.

Our state debt is one of the lowest state debts in the entire country per capita. They did a thing we’re like 20 billion in debt, our economies over a trillion dollars, so it ends up being a debt to GDP ratio about 1.5%. Contrast that with the federal government,

Governor Ron DeSantis (11:00):

The debt is bigger than the overall national economy, and the debt to GDP ratio is like 130%. And so Florida, you couldn’t have a more polar opposite fiscal situation, and so we’re proud of that. At the same time, we want to keep going, so we’re going to launch a debt reduction program. We’re going to seed it with $400 million. This will be able to retire debt ahead of schedule and continue to make sure that the people of Florida are in good shape. If you count the per capita tax burden or per capita debt burden in Florida, I think for each citizen of Florida, it’d be about $767. Contrast that to the federal government. If you took each individual American and said, what is their share of the national debt? It’s over $90,000 per American. And so again, a radical difference. So we’re going to do this debt reduction. We think it’s going to be very important.

We also are going to do something which I don’t think any other state has done. We’re going to create and we’re going to seed with $1 billion a new state investment fund. So this is basically taking surplus that we have and said, okay, instead of it just sitting there, why don’t we put it to good use? In terms of tapping into it, it’ll be below the budget stabilization fund. So you’d have to exhaust the BSF before you could even get to this. I don’t foresee that being necessary, but nevertheless, that would be the priority. So it’s a billion dollars into the fund. It’ll be invested by the State Board of Administration. The first 3% of the returns go back into the fund so they can continue to build the fund. The next 2.5% on top of that will go to the debt reduction program. And so we’ve put money for that. Then this’ll continue to feed money into that if they have positive returns. And everything above that 2.5% will go to general revenue.

So I think this makes a lot of sense. I think it’s something that is putting the money to good use and we’re going to continue to lead on fiscal responsibility and making sure that our state is not drowning in debt. Some of these states have massive, massive debt. Some of them have deficits even though they got a lot of money from Uncle Sam over the last few years, still running big deficits. And so Florida, we’re built to succeed now and deep into the future, and I think these debt policies are going to be very, very, very positive.

This is a great budget for education in the state of Florida. We’re proud to say that we’ve been ranked pretty consistently over the last few years, number one in public higher education system, and largely because of how affordable our education system is. We’re also number one in education freedom, and I think we’re going to bolster that ranking significantly after this legislative session. Number one in parental involvement in education, and I think we’re going to do more to fortify that.

And then if you look at the 2022 NAEP results, the Nation’s Report Card, we came in third and fourth respectively in fourth grade reading and math. But if you control for demographics, we would clearly be number one in the country in both fourth grade reading and fourth grade math. And so we’re proud of that. We want to build off that success.

So this budget will have a record, $26 billion for K through 12 education, 1.6 billion for early childhood learning and for VPK, and $1 billion for salary increases for teachers in our categorical budget. We actually had to put, you increase education spending and you have school unions that will use that for different things, and it doesn’t go to teachers enough. So we said this can only go for teachers salaries. We put this in several years ago and we’ve increased it every year. This is a $200 million increase from last year, but it’s frustrating. We did that. The budget was signed last spring and you still have some school districts. They hadn’t paid their teachers more when they had the money in the kitty because this is all playing politics with that. So this is the biggest investment that’s ever been made, but I think they need to actually pay them on schedule. So maybe we’ll put something in there to make sure that they actually do it and they don’t drag it out. But that’s a big, big win for teachers.

We are going to have an increase of $205 in per pupil spending, $8,453 per student. That’s the largest that Florida has ever had. Increase in the base student allocation for $121. We’ll do $400 million for school safety and mental health program. That’s an increase of $60 million, $5 million, which is an increase from I think 3.5 million last year for security at our Jewish day schools. And $10 million for our new teacher recruitment program that’s seeking to get enlisted retired military veterans and first responders to come and serve their community in the classroom.

For higher education, we are fully funding at $614.5 million Bright Futures Scholarship for the citizens of Florida. I mean, I think it’s good that if you’re a good student, you may have options to go other places. Decide to go to a state university in Florida. Basically you could go for free or at least have the vast majority of it paid for in terms of your tuition. And so you can graduate using Bright Futures with virtually no debt in the state of Florida. And that’s not true in many other parts of the country. In fact, our out-of-state tuition is lower than some places in state. Someone was telling me about how much it costs to go in state in some of these other places, way, way more than it costs to go in the state of Florida. So we’re proud of that.

I mentioned this yesterday, we’re going to put a hundred million dollars in the kitty for each of our universities to compete for where they can go and recruit with higher salaries, great tenured, potentially professors, maybe assistant, maybe tenured, bring them on and be able to pay for really, really good performance. I mean, some of these people in some of these schools, they don’t make that much money. If you find really good people, we now are putting money where our mouth is. You could go and recruit those. We’re going to do…

In a few weeks, I think, when the LBC meets, they’re going to do $15 million for new college for the recruiting there. You’ve seen there’s some changes there. We’re reorienting the mission for classical liberal arts instead of what it was. And I think there’s huge interest in this, but you’re going to be able to go there, potentially live in a very nice part of the world and make more than whatever you were making. So we’re happy to make that investment.

We’re also happy to continue to make investments in workforce education. Yes, higher education, traditional, it’s an important role for that. We’ve been supportive, but that is not the only pathway to success. We understand credentials at the high school level, state colleges, other workforce programs are absolutely essential. And not only giving opportunity for Floridians to be able to do very well with very minimal debt, but also it’s important for our economy to have these key positions filled.

For example, when I became Governor, Florida was producing about 650 truck drivers through the commercial driver’s licenses every year. Now we have the ability to do about 3,500 every year. I guess we’re going to start having people retire who are reaching that age, and people coming behind are not in sufficient numbers right now to replace. So we’re doing our part to make sure that that’s good. So we’re strong on education across the board. Early education, of course, affordability in higher education, teacher salary increases, but also workforce education and really stressing that these are honorable pursuits. Getting a piece of paper to hang on your wall does not make you better than somebody else who may have a credential. And some of these people are doing very, very well. So we’re excited about that. Infrastructure and economic development. I mentioned the $7 billion for moving Florida forward. Some of those projects are in dire need. You could just get stuck on I-4 and ChampionsGate and Ocala by 75 by the Turnpike. You could just get stuck. And it’s not just rush hour traffic. I mean at any hour of the day, you can potentially get stuck. And I don’t see that alleviated until we actually do what needs to be done. So rather than wait another decade or so, we’re going to start those projects now. So that’s 7 billion, 4 billion in cash from this budget directly. They’ll leverage that to get to the 7 billion, and we are going to be making sure that we’re supporting that all the way through. But our FDOT Work Program, we’re going to be able to fund at a record $13.4 billion. And so growing state, you got to do what you got to do.

We’ll be able to fully fund Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund at $402.7 million, and we will be able to fund for the second year in a row the Hometown Heroes Program, $100 million. It’s been very popular. You’ve had people who are first responders, teachers, people that are really integral to the community use this to be able to afford to buy a home. We’re asking for $100 million for the governor’s Job Growth Grant Fund. That has been very effective because I can take requests from local communities and it’s very nimble, and I can go give checks. And I think that it’s something, particularly some of our more rural areas have really, really appreciated. We are also asking 30 million for the rural infrastructure fund and over $100 million for high-speed internet, particularly in these underserved areas. And we’re going to do more on the broadband. You’ll hear announcements very, very soon on that. So really, really doing good on economic development.

And of course, Florida, the beauty of Florida, conserving Florida’s beauty, protecting Florida’s beauty has been a staple of our administration from the very start over four years ago. We made big ambitious promises, but my view is I don’t promise things unless I know I can follow through. And I knew this wasn’t necessarily going to be easy, but I felt that we had the people of Florida behind us on this one. So we set out an agenda, we said we would accomplish it, and not only did we accomplish it, we exceeded what we promised.

And so it’s really been a golden age of conservation in the state of Florida. If you ever see the maps that I think we’ve put out of the water flow from Lake Okeechobee south through the Everglades, down to Florida Bay, what it was four years ago versus what it was now? Dramatic, dramatic increase. We have more to do. And so we’re going to continue fulfilling our promises. And so we said over these next four years, we promised 2.5 billion over the first four. That was a billion more than had been done the previous four. We exceeded that

Governor Ron DeSantis (22:00):

By a country mile. Now we’re promising 3.5 billion over these next four years. We’re going to be able to do for water quality and Everglades restoration, 1.1 billion. So that’s a first step towards reaching that 3.5 billion. Obviously, that puts us on target to be able to do that over a four-year period. That money has worked. That money is important and we’re going to continue fighting for that. We’re also doing a lot for our coastal communities, as we saw with Ian, and then of course with Nicole, it’s important to be able to bolster those coastlines. So we have 406 million for resiliency efforts as well as $156 million for beach renourishment, and that is in addition to the $100 million that we just got passed through the special legislative session in December. So from what we did in December to what we hopefully will get now, that’s about a quarter of a billion dollars to support our beaches and to fortify our coastlines.

We’re going to be asking for 15 million to enhance the oyster restoration efforts at Appalachia Cola Bay, which is very important for the culture of that community, as well as 21.2 million for coral reef protection, which is really important in southern Florida. I’m excited about what we’re going to be able to do with public safety. We’ve taken very clear position on public safety, making sure we’re a law and order state. I think the people that wear the uniform in the state of Florida appreciate the fact that the state of Florida has their back because they understand it’s an important part of having thriving communities. We’ve done a lot leading up to this point. This year we’re going to be able to do $124 million to increase salaries across all the state law enforcement agencies, FDLE, highway patrol, fish and wildlife. That’s going to equate to thousands of dollars in salary increases for people who are in law enforcement serving the state of Florida. That’s going to make a big difference for retention, but also for recruiting new people into these state agencies.

We’re also going to double down on our recruiting bonus program. It’s been very, very successful. People know that if they’re not being treated well in Illinois or Seattle or wherever, if they come to the state of Florida, you get that $5000 bonus, which is nice because the money’s nice. But honestly, it’s a signal to say, “Hey, we appreciate what you’re doing.” So we’re going to allocate 30 million for that program to continue to offer $5000 bonuses. And oh, by the way, it’s not just… It’s not recruiting from other states. When you have new people in Florida going into the profession, these young people, they’re also eligible for that bonus. So they may have options about what they want to do with their life. If they go and they commit to this, they get the $5000 bonus. We’re also going to allocate $20 million to assist local law enforcement efforts in combating the fentanyl epidemic. We’ve done a lot on this. There’s more that needs to be done, and I think that that money will help those who are really on the front lines of dealing with these really, really important issues.

Thanks to the First Ladies’ effort, we’ve really galvanized a lot of support for cancer research, as well as many other programs involving health and human services. This budget allocates 166 million to support cancer research, including 20 million to establish the Cancer Innovation Fund. This is really trying to jumpstart, take some risks to maybe get some very promising results. We are doing 76 million to help women and children by increasing hospital rates for inpatient services for acutely ill newborns and for pediatric patients, as well as 143 million for enhanced services to pregnant and postpartum women and children. In terms of the opioid epidemic, you have the 20 million that we mentioned, but we’re going to do 334 million to support the full array of services, and we have a core program in the state of Florida. You’re talking about prevention, you’re talking about treatment.

You’re talking about a whole host of things that go into this 147.4 million to use the money from the state opioid settle settlement to create an office which we’re required to do to administer the funds, and then to be able to use these for a wide variety of services to help the people of Florida. One of the things that we’ve always said in Florida is we want to support seniors first and put seniors first. We’ve done that in a variety of ways. One of the things we’ve done is really lean into support for Alzheimer’s, not just for research, but also for services. So we have nine million for memory clinics and the brain bus in this budget, five million for increased services for caregivers, and one million for our Florida Alzheimer’s Center of Excellence. As well as continued research funding that we’re providing to our universities. For the state employees, we’re able to do nearly $700 million increase in our state pay package. That will include a 5% across the board increase for all state employees. It will include an additional 10% increase for “hard to hire” positions of importance that have critical needs.

So there’s just some things where they can’t get people without being able to offer higher salaries because people can make a lot more money elsewhere. So this allows that increase, which will be significant. We’ve now been able to increase the starting pay for correctional officers to $23 per hour. When I became governor, they couldn’t hire them because they could work at Wawa or some of these other places. So now we’ve made it a lot more competitive and that will help with recruitment and retention. Our state law enforcement increases that I mentioned are on top of the 5%, so everyone gets the five. Then the LE’s get the increase above and beyond that are targeted. We’re also doing, in addition, all that targeted pay increases for critical staff at DCF Child Protective Services. Again, because it’s hard to keep people if you can’t pay decent. We’re also going to pay more for folks involved with licensure at DBPR because we want to increase the speed that the licenses are being able to be admitted. For our state retirement system, we’re going to provide increase of 3% for the employer contribution in the state retirement system.

We’re also going to do a 4% increase in pension benefits because you have inflation that has depleted the value of those benefits. Now, when I did this four years ago, we had 82.4% funded. Today I’m here, it’s 83.9% funded. But what we’ve done each year that I’ve been in office, we’ve reduced the assumed rate of return. If we had the more rosy assumptions for this, we’d probably be 86, 87% funded. So the fact that we’ve had all this turmoil, had some market turmoil and we’re basically where we were and probably much better if you had that, I think that that’s a good sign. I think we’re going to be able to build from here but at the end of the day, we really want honest accounting and we could fudge the numbers a little bit. So we’ve been reducing that assumed rate return. We think that’s the conservative approach. We think that that’s something that makes the most sense. So this is a big deal in terms of this budget. I think it’s going to meet the needs of the people of Florida.

It was only possible because we’ve been a state that’s been able to thrive over these last few years. We’re going to continue those policies going forward and I look forward to working with the legislature to be able to bring some big victories back home for people all throughout the state. With that, take some questions.

Speaker 1 (29:48):

One topic right off the bat, but there’s a lot going on obviously in the state, and I wanted to get your opinion of the new framework that we’ve seen from the American and the African-American AP course that we released today. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to review it.

Governor Ron DeSantis (30:08):

Yeah, I haven’t seen it, so I’ll have to get back to you on that.

Speaker 2 (30:12):

Governor, are you proposing to spend another 12 million to move migrants from, now you’re saying from within the United States in South Florida. Why should taxpayers spend more money on this when you haven’t even relocated a migrant from Florida?

Governor Ron DeSantis (30:25):

Well, because I think we’ve had a deterrent effect, and I think people are sick of having an open border with no rule of law in this country. So we can just sit here and do nothing about it, or we can actually stand up and say, “Whatever tools we have at our disposal, we are going to use.” There have been millions and millions of people that have come across that border illegally over the last two years, and it’s an abdication of the duty to enforce the law. It’s also caused a lot of harm to communities who have to deal with taxpayer benefits, all these other things, criminal aliens. Of course, the narcotics has been incredible. So it’s not just this. That got a lot of press, but we’ve been doing, today we’ve had task force to do interdictions in the panhandle and actually brought cases in federal court.

Now that case is in front of a judge going after the catch and release policy. I think we’re going to win that case and that’s going to put a burden on the Biden administration to maybe change what they’re doing. So any way we can do to make an impact on this issue, we are going to do it. And don’t let anyone tell you that border is only affecting the people that are on the Rio Grande Valley, that borders affecting communities all across this country. Just look at the number of fentanyl deaths that we’ve seen over the last two years.

Speaker 2 (31:42):

What evidence do you have?

Governor Ron DeSantis (31:43):

Okay, you’ve already asked one. Gary?

Gary (31:46):

I wanted to ask you in relation to [inaudible 00:31:49] state, relative to the use of federal Covid aid, the law was changed at the end of last year, and so that the money would no longer return it. The money would no longer go to other states, it would go down to pay the debt. He’s asked you and other governors to do that. I noticed in the budget that there is spending left, the rest of the Covid aids in the back of the bill. Just wanting to get your thoughts on the idea of continuing to spending it, as opposed to returning it as Senator Scott suggested.

Governor Ron DeSantis (32:17):

So if you look at how much money that is, what is it, Chris? A hundred million, 200 million, few hundred million? How much dent would that make in the debt? I mean, seriously. I appreciate when federal folks are concerned about how we’re managing this. Why don’t they get their house in order? Why don’t they stop spending so much of our money? Yes, sir.

Speaker 3 (32:44):

Governor, what are the chances that you’ll sign the six-week Hartley bill if it comes to your desk, and you also support the concealed carry or constitutional carry bill?

Governor Ron DeSantis (32:54):

I’ve said on both of those, we are for constitutional carry. We’re for pro-life. I

Governor Ron DeSantis (33:00):

I urge the legislature to work, produce good stuff, and we will sign.

[inaudible 00:33:05].

Yes, ma’am?

Speaker 5 (33:06):

With the threat of a nationwide recession, do you think that will have any impact on this budget [inaudible 00:33:14] economic downturn?

Governor Ron DeSantis (33:14):

So it’s built in. When you have 15.7 billion in reserves, when you have 3.4 billion in your rainy day fund, you are prepared to be able to weather those types of storms.

And if you look at the Great Recession, which really devastated Florida, because there was so much built into the housing and you had the housing bust, they had a billion, two billion. I mean, there were billions in shortfalls.

I think we probably are going to have an economic downturn nationwide, I just think that there’s a lot of problems, but I think we’ve consistently outperformed the nation, and we will not be immune to it, we will absolutely see effects just like we’ve seen effects with a lot of the inflation, but nevertheless, it’s a situation where we are built to be able to withstand that.

We are assuming that we are going to get … I don’t even think you’d probably even need to dip into the BSF. When you have seven billion in general revenue just sitting there, when we’re going to probably end up with another billion and a half by the end of the fiscal year just sitting there, that’s probably going to be enough to be able to handle whatever may come our way.

So I feel really good about it.

I mean, we thought 5.7 billion in reserves, or 5.2 when I was doing this four years ago, we thought that was strong. People were really … They always said, “Have a billion in unallocated general revenue.” We had 1.4. “Wow, that’s really good.” Well, we’ve blown past all that and we’re going to continue to do well.

Speaker 6 (34:35):

Governor, your staff has identified that 35 million dollars in universities is being spent on DEI. You made some pretty strong statements about eliminating that kind of funding in the budget, but I didn’t hear anything today about how you’re planning to do that.

Governor Ron DeSantis (34:51):

So I think what there’ll be, there’ll be a statute that the legislature will pass that will basically abolish those offices. And I think that that needs to be done. I don’t think it’s been a good use of money and I think it’s really about furthering ideology rather than actually trying to promote equal treatment.

So that is going to happen. I’m pretty sure. And that will be reflected in terms of the universities just won’t be able to spend … I think as you guys know, we don’t dictate whatever universities spend on certain things. I don’t agree with everything, but we don’t micromanage every little thing. But there are certain things where you can say, “Okay, here’s a red line. You’re not allowed to go there.” And that’s something that they’ll have to respect.

Speaker 5 (35:32):

Governor, I do have a question that’s going to be off topic about-

Governor Ron DeSantis (35:37):

Well, no, so you already asked. Okay. You’ve already asked.

Speaker 4 (35:41):

[inaudible 00:35:41] a massive expansion in school choice. We opened the Family Empowerment Awards to pretty much anyone in the state.

Where are you on their plane and is it factored into your budget at all?

Governor Ron DeSantis (35:50):

So we didn’t necessarily factor the entire thing. I think we factored in some increases. Yeah. But I mean, I’m supportive of school choice, so we will absolutely …

It depends on how they do it. There’s going to be … I think they’re talking about a cap from people that are already in private, whether they can then qualify if they’re already paying without a scholarship.

That would really only be the fiscal, that movement, because the rest is you’re taking somebody who may be in a charter school or a school district, moving them, and you’re just moving the money with the student. And so the fiscal would be, are you letting private school students then qualify for scholarships when they already weren’t? That obviously would be a fiscal to the state of Florida.

But I think it’s built so that the priority really is on those low income, middle income families, as it should be.

But yes, the money should follow the student. I think that that is a good approach.

And I think that approach has been vindicated in Florida when you look … We’ve had many years now of not just doing private choice, but also doing charter schools. We have 363,000 kids in charter schools. And we also have a lot of choice within school districts because parents are demanding options.

And so that’s happened over a number of years. And then what’s the result? Well, we’re number one when you adjust for demographics in the [inaudible 00:37:09] for fourth grade reading and fourth grade math.

I don’t think we were number one 25 years ago. So I think the proof’s been in the pudding on that.

[inaudible 00:37:17].

Speaker 7 (37:16):

Governor, I’m curious about your Medicaid budget. Can you share with us how many beneficiaries you plan on covering in the budget? We’ve heard that-

Governor Ron DeSantis (37:30):

Do you know how many?

Speaker 8 (37:30):

We’ll be funding the social service [inaudible 00:37:32] about 5.4 billion.

Speaker 7 (37:34):

So can you comment on how much of a reduction that is? [inaudible 00:37:41]

Governor Ron DeSantis (37:41):

I don’t think it’s … Is it a reduction, yeah?

Speaker 8 (37:42):

There’s no forecast reduction because if we adopted this [inaudible 00:37:46]

Speaker 7 (37:46):

But your administration, sir, is … Now that the public health emergency has expired, you’re rolling out …

Governor Ron DeSantis (37:54):

Whoa, whoa. Did it? When did that expire? Did it expire?

Speaker 7 (37:57):

You’re rolling out a plan.

Governor Ron DeSantis (37:58):

Well, no, no, but it has not expired, has it?

Speaker 7 (38:01):

I think …

Speaker 8 (38:01):

The Biden administration [inaudible 00:38:05] in May.

Governor Ron DeSantis (38:05):

Well, yeah, but I think they’ve played footsy with that before.

We’ll see. I think that it’d be-

Speaker 7 (38:13):

Is your administration going to begin to disenroll 900,000 people beginning April 1st [inaudible 00:38:15].

Governor Ron DeSantis (38:16):

We have the budget for what we did and we’ll follow through on that budgeted amount.

[inaudible 00:38:22]

Speaker 9 (38:22):

What can we expect with Reedy Creek in the coming month and the special session?

Governor Ron DeSantis (38:26):

Yeah, I mean, Reedy Creek is exactly what I said. I said, “We’re not going to have a corporation controlling its own government. That’s going to revert to the state.”

I mean, look, I’d rather it be local, but I don’t think that they’re prepared for it. So the state’s going to have a board to run it.

So Disney will not have self-governing status anymore. We’re going to make sure that there are no special legal privileges and that they’re abiding by the same laws. That’ll be in the bill. And then making sure they’re paying their fair share of taxes and paying the debt.

You remember when we did this, people said, “Oh, the Floridians are going to get soaked with the Reedy Creek dead and all these people’s taxes are going to go up.” Not happening. We said that at the time, and now we’ll have a great framework in place to be able to bring some sense to this and just understand that it’s not right to put one company in this special status.

And so what we’re really doing is just doing equal treatment, and I think it’s exactly what we said we would do.

[inaudible 00:39:22]

Speaker 10 (39:21):

[inaudible 00:39:22] resiliency [inaudible 00:39:25] in the past. You’re increasing resiliency. And you’ve dismissed climate change as left wing stuff, but is spending on resiliency going to be in the [inaudible 00:39:35]?

Governor Ron DeSantis (39:34):

Well, no, what I have said is you will have people that say under climate change that gives them the right to regulate and control everything people do. And we reject that in the state of Florida.

They claim climate change for gas stoves. They claim all this stuff.

Notice how they don’t like gas, natural gas, they don’t like oil. They say it all should be windmills and solar panels. But what’s the cleanest of all? Nuclear. They almost all oppose nuclear. So they use that to control.

So what we don’t do in Florida is embrace things to just try to control people. But what we do do is I have vulnerable areas in the state of Florida. We’re a storm prone state. If you look at what happened in Ian, some of the areas that had been fortified after Charlie and even a little after Irma, they did much better.

So that’s just recognizing that we’re in this position to have to fend this stuff off. But that’s really a positive thing that I think most people do.

Take away gas stoves, take away this, all that other stuff, that’s not going to happen in the state of Florida.

And I do think that that is really what they use more than anything else to try to justify exerting control over people in this country. And we’re not going to let that happen.

Speaker 11 (40:52):

Governor, Florida has the most death row exonerees in the nation. Most of those exonerees were sent to death row on non-unanimous jury sentences. As we look to move in that direction again, how do you factor in the risk of innocent people ending up on death row?

Governor Ron DeSantis (41:06):

Well, if they’re exonerated, then the system worked, correct? I mean, there’s copious appeals.

I think in what we saw with Parkland, to have one juror stop that, that wasn’t about somebody that was going to be exonerated. Nikolas Cruz is not going to be exonerated. He’s guilty. Everybody knew he was guilty from the moment … In fact, before there was even news reports, people in that community when this happened, they all said, “It must have been this guy.”

So this was a ticking time bomb that a lot of people didn’t take seriously. So you have this terrible tragedy and it’s like it takes years to even get him to this point when he pleads guilty, and then you have this and almost all the jurors said, “This is appropriate”, and you have one that says not.

So I think in this situation, the guilt phase is a unanimous jury. That’s always been the case.

The penalty phase has never required that until very recently with a decision that’s been overturned. So if you’re talking about somebody that’s wrongfully convicted, that was convicted by a unanimous jury, and that’s how that will stay in the state of Florida. And that’s how we’ve pretty much done it for at least recent history.

But on this death penalty, I respect people that don’t agree with it, but that’s the law in Florida. And if that’s the appropriate punishment in this situation, you’ve got to have jurors that are willing to actually administer that. And I think that we sometimes will get some that really don’t have any intention of doing it. So you have one of those on the jury, then all of a sudden it throws everything else out the window.

Well, Chris Spencer’s going to come and answer more questions about the Framework for Freedom budget, but I think that this is really, really exciting and I don’t think too many people thought we’d be in this situation if we were here four years ago.

So thank you all. Take care.

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