Here’s a look at an alternate “New Sunshine Deal” state budget proposed by the Legislature’s Democrats

House Democrats. Lloyd Dunkelberger photo

What if Democrats ran the Florida House of Representatives?

It would mean support for a new state budget that would provide:

–a 13 percent raise for school teachers.

–Expanding Medicaid to cover an additional 700,000 Floridians.

–full funding for affordable-housing programs.

–a tax rebate in the range of $500 for working families with low or moderate income.

–$300 million for the state’s major environmental land-buying program.

–a $1,000 raise for state workers.

That’s according to the “New Sunshine Deal” spending plan outlined by House Democrats on Wednesday. It is their counter to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ $91.3 billion budget proposal for 2019-20.

“Over the last 20 years, we have seen our state’s budget double, while at the same time leaving hard-working Floridians in the shadows,” said House Democratic leader Rep. Kionne McGhee, a Miami lawmaker.

McGhee said the Democrat’s budget plan would provide “relief” and “reform” for Floridians.

But while the proposal offers the Democrats a chance to raise the visibility of their issues, it is not likely to pass in a chamber where Republicans hold a 71-46 edge in the membership.

The Democrats’ budget plan is built on $1.8 billion in tax increases, including a proposal to modify  the state’s corporate income tax that would generate an additional $1.2 billion. It also raises $218 million by closing sales tax “loopholes.” And it would expand the state’s ability to collect taxes on internet sales under a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling for another $426 million.

But McGhee and other Democrats will have a chance to advance some of their spending proposals in the form of separate bills and amendments to other legislation.

For instance, McGhee has a bill (HB 1411) that would create a state tax rebate program for low- to moderate-income working families. If the families meet the eligibility requirements of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit program, they would qualify for a state rebate in the range of $500 per year, he said.

The Democrats are opposed to DeSantis’ $423 million plan to offer annual bonuses of more than $9,000 to about 45,000 teachers.

Instead, the Democrats’ budget proposal would include $747.5 million in funding that would allow a 13 percent raise for all of the state’s public-school teachers, although the actual amount of the raises would be subject to approval by the local school boards.

Lloyd Dunkelberger
Lloyd Dunkelberger has been covering Florida government for over three decades. He’s reported and edited in Tallahassee for the New York Times Regional Newspapers group, Florida Politics, and the News Service of Florida. He grew up in Jacksonville and Palm Beach County and got his journalism degree at the University of Florida.

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