Legislators call for ‘people’s budget’ to prioritize Floridians and cure deficit

Anna Eskamani of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida

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A group comprised of state legislators and union members are proposing a “people’s budget” to prioritize average Floridians over corporations. The group met in a virtual forum Monday to discuss fixes for the state’s looming $2.7 billion budget.


State Rep. Anna Eskamani issued the call-to-action for this Friday.

“This Friday, Jan. 29, SEIU and all of us here want you to send a message to Gov. Ron DeSantis,” she said. “You can email, you can tweet, you can call. We basically want to make sure that there’s an actual people’s budget presented. That we hold the governor accountable and the legislature accountable to prioritizing you and your needs.”

The corporate tax rate

As Florida faces the massive budget shortfall Esteban Santis of the Florida Policy Institute budget priorities need to change. He said it’s favored corporate incentives and bailouts for nearly four decades. The state’s budgetary values more closely represent the shibboleth of trickledown economics than crises Floridians face daily. Especially in the COVID-19 era.

“Advocates of this assume that low corporate income tax rates will lead somehow to overwhelming shared prosperity,” he said. “So it’s not shocking that the last time Florida policymakers actually increased the corporate income tax rate was 1984. And here business-friendly or large business-friendly is not family-friendly.”

The corporate tax refund

DeSantis last year prioritized a $543 million corporate tax refund as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Plunging millions in Florida into economic uncertainty. There’s also a number of tax loopholes that allow corporations to funnel money made in Florida to tax havens. Once it’s there, they don’t pay into Florida’s tax system. That leads to talks of budget cuts from programs meant to aid Floridians. Essentially, Santis said the state gives bonuses to companies who skirt tax laws and pass the buck to average citizens.

“If we return the corporate income tax rate to 5.5 percent and we move to close corporate tax loopholes the state could generate $2 billion annually in revenue,” Santis said.

That’d be nearly enough to cover the deficit. It could also bolster funding for a number of programs like the healthcare and education system. Santis holds a PhD in public affairs and specializes in fiscal policy. He said the half-billion dollar corporate refund could itself have paid for $1,300 Floridians unemployed due to the pandemic; provide a $2-per-hour hazard pay raise to 300,000 frontline workers; and could’ve funded 10,000 more workers to help the state’s overrun unemployment system.

“We have the money,” Santis said. “We just have to go an implement those policies.”

‘Something we need to push back on’

Across the country, the pandemic has spiked the poverty rate. Meanwhile, a study from the Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness found billionaires in the U.S. increased their wealth by more than $1 trillion. Freshmen Rep. Angie Nixon said it’s time the U.S. and Florida stop helping the rich get richer. She said it’s time to start putting the money back with the people.

“Affordable housing is not a privilege. It shouldn’t be a privilege. It should be a right. Quality health care should be a right for all. Quality education should be a right. Unfortunately, under this current leadership, it’s not. And that’s something we need to push back on.”