Florida Governor Ron DeSantis defended the need to keep taxes low as an economic leverage and called for more investment to improve education and protect natural resources in a “state of the state” speech where immigration took up minimal space.
The only reference to foreign immigration in the governor’s speech to Florida’s Congress, which began a new session Tuesday, was indirect.
In a call to Congress to approve the implementation of the federal e-Verify program, which requires electronic verification of whether a person has his or her papers in order before employment, he rejected that the wages of low-income workers are being reduced because of “cheap foreign labor”.
“Ensuring a legal labor force through E-Verify will be good for law enforcement, protecting taxpayers and pushing up the wages of Floridians who have ‘blue collar’ (unskilled) jobs,” said Republican DeSantis, who was repeatedly interrupted by applause from lawmakers.
According to political analysts, in this case, as in others, DeSantis may encounter opposition from legislators of his own party, the Republican, which controls both houses of Congress, because it goes against the interests of Florida’s agricultural employers who pay low wages to immigrants without asking them if they have legal permission to live and work in this country.
Something similar may happen with plans to raise the annual minimum wage for teachers to $47,500 and give them other benefits, and to invest more money in protecting the Everglades wetland and the state’s rivers and lakes, which are affected by an algae bloom caused by agricultural waste.
DeSantis, who was supported by President Donald Trump in his campaign for the 2018 election and took office a year ago, differs from his gubernatorial predecessor, now Republican Senator Rick Scott, in his advocacy of the environment.
“Managing our natural resources well is key to our economic well-being. Water is the foundation of our tourism industry, making Florida a premier destination for boating and fishing tourism and raising property values,” said Governor
41 years old, whose wife, Cassey, present in Congress, is expecting her third child.
The $91.4 billion budget he has submitted to the state Congress for approval in this session reflects his concern for the environment.
DeSantis, who has proposed investing $2.5 billion over four years to restore the Everglades wetland and protect vital water resources, is asking for a new $625 million line, the same as last year for that purpose.
It also includes $50 million for beaches and nearly $9 million for coral reefs, among other items.
However, the biggest increase over last year is for Florida’s Education Funding Program, which amounts to some $22.9 billion, almost $1 billion more, as befits its declaration of 2020 as the “year of the teacher”.
“Low taxes and a favorable business climate are important in attracting investment to Florida, but so is our ability to produce high-flying talent through our high schools and colleges, through professional teaching opportunities and through strong K 12 (elementary and secondary) schools,” he said.
DeSantis did not fail to mention Florida’s good economic and employment indicators and attributed them in large part to keeping the tax burden low. He also said crime rates are at their lowest level in nearly 50 years.
“To realize its potential, Florida needs to tax lightly, spend wisely and regulate reasonably,” he said, calling on lawmakers to help maintain the commitment to “low taxes and fiscal responsibility.
In this regard, he showed his pride in the fact that Florida is for the sixth year in a row the top state on the list of those who receive the most money – “tens of billions of dollars” – as a result of the migration of people from other states.
“People are voting with their feet by leaving states with adverse economic climates to settle in the greenest economic pastures of the Sunshine State,” he said.
In his speech, the governor also discussed health care, one of the most important issues for Floridians, according to the polls, and noted that Florida intends to import medicines from foreign markets such as Canada to ensure people have access to those products at better prices. “The same medicine but at a much lower price,” he said.
“This can only be done with federal approval and I am happy to report that the Trump Administration is moving forward with the regulations applicable to the case,” he said, but warned that there is still “a long way to go.