Voting Against House Budget, Democratic Leader Thurston Takes Stand For Florida’s Middle Class and Working Families
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) today announced that he will vote against the House budget proposal, cautioning that the spending plan is skewed to benefit the wealthy and special interests rather than Florida’s middle class and working families.
Thurston said the $75.3 billion House budget, which is set for a vote on Thursday:
- Relies on a massive hike in property taxes;
- Imperils college scholarships for blacks and Hispanics;
- Attempts to achieve child protection on the cheap despite an investigation that has found hundreds of children having perished while in state custody;
- Ignores thousands of seniors and others waiting for services needed to help them live with dignity;
- Fails to restore school spending to pre-recession levels, and
- Continues a major health care crisis in which roughly one in four Floridians lack the means to pay for basic health care.
“The budget throws away billions of dollars of your tax money in breaks to big, multi-state corporations with well-connected lobbyists and doesn’t meet the true needs of Florida’s middle class, working families and small businesses,” said Leader Thurston.
Among an array of reasons Leader Thurston cited for his expected opposition to the House budget, he said it’s a “major disappointment” to him that the plan relies on higher local property taxes to pay for schools and still fails to adequately keep up with growth in student population.
“On a per-student basis, the Republican-drafted budget fails to meet Governor Scott’s pledge of historic funding for education,” Thurston said, noting that property owners will be expected to pay $423 million more in taxes to fund schools. Thurston also said the House proposal offers $155 less per student than in the 2007-08 fiscal year when per-student education funding peaked.
Also regarding education, Thurston said the budget doesn’t remedy a federal civil rights investigation that Florida’s eligibility criteria for Bright Futures Scholarships are discriminatory.
The House budget cuts Bright Futures Scholarships by $43 million from last year, he said, by relying upon prior-approved eligibility restrictions. The impact, he said, will disproportionately impact blacks and Hispanics. A University of South Florida study last year projected the standards, which are embraced by the House budget, would result in a drop of more than 75 percent for Bright Futures eligibility among black freshmen, a drop of more than 60 percent eligibility for Hispanic freshmen, as well as more than 40 percent reductions for both white and Asian freshmen.
Leader Thurston has been a champion in the Florida Legislature for expanding health coverage for working families. The House spending plan does not use billions of available federal dollars that would extend health care to thousands of Floridians. “If Florida were to accept our tax dollars under health coverage expansion, it would free up at least $400 million in General Revenue,” said Leader Thurston. “That money would help Florida address the critical needs of the state that have grown worse under prior years’ budget cuts.”
The Florida House of Representatives is scheduled to debate and vote on the House budget on Thursday. The deliberations can be seen at The Florida Channel.