DeSantis: Florida will need help making ends meet

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DeSantis handed down $1 billion in vetoes before signing this year’s $92.3 billion state budget in June. That savings, along with signs of improvement in revenue from the state sales tax, could help bridge the budget gap from increased Medicaid costs.

Since the pandemic started, DeSantis has been able to authorize spending without legislative interference under a state of emergency. Democrats repeatedly have called for a special legislative session to reexamine the budget. But even with looming budget holes, DeSantis said a special session isn’t necessary.

“Even if nothing happened in D.C., we would definitely be able to get to the end of the calendar year with no problem,” DeSantis said Tuesday. “We’ll see kind of what the revenue looks like.”

The state Agency for Health Care Administration last week estimated that the coronavirus response would lead to a $1.6 billion overrun of a $31.3 billion Medicaid spending plan that took effect July 1. The joint state Legislative Budget Commission must approve any increase in Medicaid spending.

On unemployment, the Trump administration has suggested that states tap into unspent federal relief money, a plan DeSantis dismissed Tuesday as not viable. The more than $4 billion sent to the state by Congress under the CARES Act so far is needed to balance the state’s budget and close a $2 billion gap in lost tax collections, he said.

DeSantis said he’s exploring the possibility of a loan from the U.S. Department of Labor that could be used to extend jobless benefits that were cut off due to the impasse in Washington.

“If there’s a way to do it through that, then we will proceed and do it,” DeSantis said.

Florida has already paid out more than $13.4 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits since the pandemic forced the shutdown of the state’s economy in mid-March. The state might have to borrow from the U.S. DOL to cover its share of Trump’s new unemployment benefits, DeSantis said.

Under state law, such a move likely would trigger an automatic tax increase on Florida employers.

“We don’t want that to happen, but that is a realistic possibility,” DeSantis said.



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