DeSantis on budget vetoes: ‘We are dealing with something that is unprecedented and we’ve just got to be very responsible’

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American dollars. Credit: WIkimedia Commons

Gov. Ron DeSantis signaled this week that he may have to aggressively use his veto power to help stabilize the new $93.2 billion state budget.

Although state lawmakers ended their annual session in mid-March, including passing the new 2020-21 state budget bill (HB 5001), the Republican governor has yet to receive the bill.

As of Friday morning, the Legislature remains in possession of 190 bills, including the annual appropriations act, passed during the 2020 session.

DeSantis and legislative leaders are working together on the process of sending bills to the governor, with the bills being delayed because of DeSantis’ focus on the COVID-19 crisis.

Once he receives the bills, he will have 15 days to act on them.

“We’re waiting on the budget,” DeSantis said in a Thursday evening press conference.

“We’ve got to see what the economic prognosis looks like. I get numbers about how much in the hole we’ll be for the remainder of this fiscal year. The numbers I have received are not anything that would cause us to have to redo the current fiscal year budget,” DeSantis said.

“And even next year, given the amount of (federal) money that we’ve received, a lot of people feel that (the 2020-21 budget) could be doable.”

DeSantis said “it’s more prudent to wait to see how things develop over the next several weeks and then” address the budget bill, which DeSantis will review and use his line-item veto power to eliminate specific spending items.

In the next month or so, state economists will begin revising their estimate of state revenue, including sales tax collections, which are expected to plummet because of the economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus. The sales tax is the primary funding source for the state’s general revenue fund.

At this point, DeSantis said he wants to avoid bringing back lawmakers in a special session to deal with a potential budget shortfall.

“That may require me to exercise a lot of vetoes and there may be vetoes on things that I personally support, but I just have to say in this situation we are dealing with something that is unprecedented and we’ve just got to be very responsible,” DeSantis said. “So, come back next year, if we’re recovered, come back next year and we’ll do it.”

In his first year in office, DeSantis used his veto power to eliminate $131 million in line items from the $91 billion 2019-20 state budget.

“I think in terms of (the) veto situation, if we want the (new) budget to stick, I’m going to have to really look hard about what is absolutely necessary and what things we can punt until next time,” DeSantis said.

The new state budget, which includes pay raises for teachers and state workers, will take effect on July 1, once the governor signs it.