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Democrats react to Florida lawmakers' proposed budget

House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) took questions from reporters during a press conference focused on the budget on Wednesday, April 12, 2023.
Valerie Crowder
House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) took questions from reporters during a press conference focused on the budget on Wednesday, April 12, 2023.

Democrats say there are some things they like about the budget proposals that recently passed the Florida House and Senate, but there are also things they don't like.

"It certainly is a mixed bag,” said House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa). "As you may see yes votes from members of my caucus, that certainly does not mean that we endorse all aspects of that budget."

The Republican-led Florida House and Senate have passed record high budgets for the upcoming fiscal year, with each one totaling about $113 billion. Negotiations are underway.

“We’re starting to see some good funding with respect to health care and trying to help Floridians lower health care costs," Driskell said. "I do like that there’s some funding for affordable housing. What I don’t like about it is that that funding also comes with stripping away control from local governments to do the things that they need to do."

Driskell says she's also opposed to providing more funding for DeSantis' migrant relocation program.

“Some of the things that I don’t like is that they include still this money for the governor to play political gamesmanship with people’s lives with the undocumented migrant program, potentially allowing him to move people from not Florida to not Florida and engage in these stunts like he did in Martha’s Vineyard.”

The historic budget wouldn’t be possible without the Biden administration because a third of the proposed budget is made up of federal dollars, Driskell said. That totals about $41 billion.

"One out of every three dollars spent by our state government and by our governor here in Florida is federal money, but you won’t hear that from the governor, who takes every opportunity to attack and to vilify our federal partners.”

Congressman Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee) was at the Florida Capitol on Wednesday to talk about dollars that Congress and President Joe Biden have approved for the state.

Soto described the contrast between those priorities and culture war issues that Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republicans in the state legislature have prioritized.

“While we’re focusing as Democrats on building roads and bridges, they’re banning books. While we’re replacing Florida’s lead pipes — the most of any state in the nation — they’re banning drag queens," Soto said. "While we’re bringing high-speed internet across rural Florida, they’re attacking women, African American and hispanic history and immigrants, the list goes on and on. And Floridians are growing sick and tired of this three-ring circus.”

Valerie Crowder is a freelance journalist based in Tallahassee, Fl. She's the former ATC host/government reporter for WFSU News. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.