TALLAHASSEE – Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a $100 billion budget Wednesday after vetoing $1.5 billion, including $1 billion in federal money for an emergency response fund he said had strings attached that made it unusable.
DeSantis held a bill signing ceremony at a New Smyrna Beach restaurant and used the event to boast about his response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying fully opening Florida to business early helped the economy rebound faster and stronger than expected.
“A lot of people were trying to tell me to close restaurants like this last summer. We didn’t do it. We kept business open, we got kids in school,” DeSantis said. “The result was our economy really started to rebound.”
Even with the vetoes, the budget is nearly $8 billion above the current state spending plan. The budget year starts July 1.
He said the state continues to far exceed revenue projections, helped in part by tourism.
“You had a lot of these other states that just kept locking people down. We were the state lifting people up. That was good for Floridians, but we were also the landing spot for a lot of people that wanted to escape the insanity and come and get recharged.” DeSantis said.
The billion dollars in federal money was supposed to go to an emergency response fund set up by the Legislature. DeSantis said that while he supports such a fund, the federal government set conditions on it that didn’t make sense for the state.
Part of it was because the money would come in the form of grants and the state would have to go through normal bidding process to spend it.
“In an emergency situation, you don’t have the time to do the normal procurement. You’ve got to do this very quickly. It would defeat the purpose to try to use it for emergency response if you have to go through all that bureaucracy,” DeSantis said.
He said the state also wanted to use the money to meet future emergency needs, and the federal government said it couldn’t be used for those purposes.