A group of everyday Floridians joined legislators from around the state today in countering Gov. Ron DeSantis’s State of the State address with the “People’s Response”. They announced in a comprehensive video response, a series of agenda items that, unlike DeSantis’ priorities, will tackle the state’s crises head-on with an eye toward building a Florida for the people, and not just well-connected campaign donors, lobbyists, and special interests.
The group offered practical alternatives to the policies of Gov. DeSantis and his legislative allies across a broad range of issues: unemployment, minimum wage, affordable housing, health care and the state budget.
“Now, more than ever, Floridians demand our leaders come together to work on the shared problems we face,” said Rep. Andrew Learned. “But that is just not what we heard today. Instead of helping hardworking Floridians with common sense solutions we heard an agenda that was driven by pettiness, imaginary threats and settling partisan political scores. This is a time for leadership, a plan to get COVID-19 under control, to deliver relief for Florida’s families and build back our economy better.”
“Our state budget is a statement of our values as Floridians,” said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith in addressing the state’s $2 billion pandemic-induced budget shortfall. “For decades, Republicans who have controlled our government have prioritized giving more money to the biggest corporations and more power to their biggest donors. Floridians who send their children to public schools, struggle to afford health care, and keep a roof over their heads, have been left with the bill.”
In crafting this year’s budget, Smith called for an end to unneeded corporate tax breaks and taxpayer giveaways to unaccountable voucher schools; repeal of the destructive and unnecessary multi-billion dollar toll roads to ruin boondoggle; the legalization and regulation of recreational marijuana; and common sense criminal justice reforms. “We’ll use those savings where it counts: investing in our small businesses, improving our public schools and colleges, modernizing roads and infrastructure, and creating jobs that actually pay a living wage,” added Smith.
The stakes are too high for working families to not get involved in our state budget process. That’s why The People’s Budget Florida is working to give residents the power to decide the state budget for themselves. Floridians can take the People’s Budget Challenge at www.peoplesbudgetflorida.org.
Rep. Anna Eskamani called for a raise in the state’s meager $275 unemployment benefit, along with a doubling of the eligibility period to 26 weeks. “To date, neither Gov. DeSantis nor Republican leaders in the legislature have offered a fix to our unemployment woes. Instead, they are following the lead of powerful corporate interests, putting the profits of their donors before the people of this great state,” said Eskamani.
Rep. Angie Nixon took Republican leadership to task for thwarting the will of the people when it comes to raising the state’s minimum wage. “Not only did they oppose the Minimum Wage amendment, this year, Republicans are adding insult to injury: proposing to exclude workers under 21, the disabled, and people who’ve paid their debt to society from the new minimum wage increase,” said Nixon. “Instead of holding bad corporate actors accountable for discriminatory hiring practices, they are letting them write the rules. This creates a group of second class citizens and it’s wrong.”
Rebecca Nero, who works as an intern at a law firm agreed. “It would be unfair to not raise the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour for people under the age of 21 because you are essentially exploiting a whole class of workers,” Nero said.
Sen. Annette Taddeo spoke to the needs of Floridians like St. Petersburg resident Til Vogeler.
“While I skip doctors visits because I’m broke we are trying to find ways to raise less revenue for the services we need more than ever,” Vogeler said. “I was born in Florida and I’ve lived here all my life so this situation is nothing new to me and my family.”
Taddeo declared health care “a right” while highlighting her legislative proposal to expand Medicaid to one million Floridians, along with Democratic efforts to rein in prescription drug prices. “While Gov. DeSantis and Republican legislators continue to do nothing to improve health care for Floridians at the behest of big insurance and big pharma, my Democratic colleagues and I will be fighting for you, the people,” she said.
Sen. Vic Torres spoke on the dire affordable housing crisis in Florida and urged his colleagues not to again raid the state’s affordable housing trust fund. “Tragically, while rents and the cost of housing have skyrocketed in every community throughout Florida, Gov. DeSantis and Republicans in the legislature have done nothing. In fact, last year, the Governor vetoed $225 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, while giving away $543 million to a secret group of the biggest businesses in the state,” said Torres. He also backed legislation to help prevent tenants from unlawful eviction.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this is the first time the People’s Response is being released as a video instead of a live event. To access individual video clips by speaker, click here.