January 29, 2021

Federal Medicaid Dollars and COVID Aid Help Preserve Crucial Priorities in Gov's Recommended Budget, But Path to Recovery Must Include Tax Code Cleanup

The following is a statement on Governor Ron DeSantis’ budget recommendations for fiscal year 2021-22

Federal Medicaid dollars and CARES Act funds are the real MVPs in Governor DeSantis’ $96.6 billion recommended budget, protecting against major cuts to crucial programs and services amid the pandemic and economic recession.

We applaud the governor’s full funding of the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund in his recommended budget, as well as the proposal’s increased investment in basic education programs for people who are incarcerated, continued commitment to raising starting pay for Florida teachers, and substantial boost in climate and natural disaster mitigation efforts, which are all key investments during a very difficult time for Floridians.

The proposed Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funding, however, is inadequate to meet a family’s basic needs, much less cover additional costs related to COVID. Despite inflation, Florida has not raised temporary cash assistance levels in nearly 30 years.

The budget also cuts Florida Forever funding by $50 million from the current-year level, and the governor’s recommendations include continued funding for M-CORES, the costly, harmful toll roads project that endangers protected Florida lands and wildlife.

As the governor stated in his remarks on the budget, the extra federal Medicaid dollars Florida received through COVID relief, totaling $554.7 million, helped bolster general revenue, as our state was able to substitute state dollars with federal ones. Though Medicaid expansion would similarly provide Florida with billions in additional federal dollars through an enhanced funding match — which would lead to significant state budget savings — the governor and legislative leaders have actively blocked efforts to expand access to affordable health care on the specious grounds of cost.

The governor also did not propose any revenue-raising measures, and instead reinforced his commitment to keeping taxes ‘low’ — despite Florida having one of the most inequitable tax codes in the nation. COVID-19 has further entrenched inequity and has revealed just how vulnerable the state’s tax system is to economic and natural disasters. Reducing inequity and creating a stronger, more resilient revenue base will require fixing and modernizing Florida’s tax code.

While the proposal includes some important investments, Florida has a long way to go toward economic recovery, and without making our state’s tax code fairer, the roadblocks to economic stability that existed pre-COVID for Floridians of color, families with low income, and people living in rural areas will only grow larger.

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