As the state budget deadline looms July 1, key organizations ask DeSantis to deliver on long-awaited proposals

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American dollars. Credit: WIkimedia Commons

As Gov. Ron DeSantis prepares to make state budget cuts, a letter signed by 35 Florida organizations calls on the governor to protect longstanding public services by finding funds from every route possible.

“The governor must protect crucial programs and services, or else we will see existing racial and economic disparities exacerbated in Florida,” Sadaf Knight, CEO of Florida Policy Institute, said in a statement Friday. The institute joined with the nearly three dozen organizations urging DeSantis to act.

Those groups range from the League of Women Voters of Florida and Habitat for Humanity of Florida to the Florida PTA and United Way of Florida, touching on areas including housing, health, conservation, children and retirees.

The letter requests DeSantis to protect long-awaited programs, such as raising teacher pay, increasing affordable housing opportunities and continuing Florida’s environmental land acquisition program.

DeSantis has said that he is preparing to make big cuts in the budget to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including declining sales tax revenues. However, federal dollars and the state’s reserves could help soften the blow. DeSantis received the $93.2 billion state budget Wednesday, which will take effect July 1.

The letter sent Friday, and copied to legislative leaders and Florida Cabinet officials, states that:

“In the time since the Legislature passed the budget, the COVID-19 crisis has drastically changed the landscape at the state and national level. It has exacerbated long-standing racial and economic disparities in Florida. Gaps in access to health care, affordable housing, and countless other areas will only grow wider without revenue-raising solutions. Steps must be taken to ensure families across the state are able to weather this unprecedented crisis, and to jumpstart state and local economies.”

The letter requests finding “common-sense” measures to increase state revenue, such as enforcing a sales tax on online orders and ensuring corporations are accountable for their tax liability, among other measures.

In addition to the 35 organizations signed by the letter,  another group, Florida TaxWatch,  released their own recommendations. TaxWatch also called for implementing a tax on remote sales, such as online and phone orders. However, those recommendations also suggest that DeSantis should postpone teacher pay raises at Florida’s public school.