Florida TaxWatch State of the Taxpayer’s Annual Dinner Federal Aid Spotlight

Florida TaxWatch State of the Taxpayer’s Annual Dinner Federal Aid Spotlight

Political pundits spoke to a group of political thinkers about how to make the most of the billions of dollars in federal aid pouring into Florida at a recent dinner in Tallahassee.

“We were served a plate full of politics and insights from legislators and individuals who truly care about Florida taxpayers. This was a meeting where people who are involved in the daily process came to hear about the people they are serving,” said Florida TaxWatch Vice President Tony Carvajal, who explained that the ticketed dinner was dedicated to everyone who they call the Sunshine State home. “A lot of times, we call them Floridians. Today we call them taxpayers as a reminder of how important they are to the state.”

On Wednesday, about 180 political pundits attended dinner at the AC Hotel in Cascades Park, where they heard state lawmakers and cabinet members discuss the state of government spending.

Representatives of industry groups, political party leaders, former legislators and members of advocacy groups attended.

In each legislative session, Florida legislators are tasked with approving a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. And for the past four decades, the government spending watchdog organization Florida TaxWatch has been monitoring how those dollars are being spent.

The organization has two priorities when lawmakers meet on Capitol Hill in the coming weeks, said Florida TaxWatch president and former US senator George LeMieux. One is to make sure the state’s corporate income tax rate doesn’t increase. And the second is making sure billions of dollars in federal aid are spent responsibly, and that means not spending money on small local projects.

“It means a transformative amount of money spent to do things like broadband, build roads, repair an airport, or do things that will improve the quality of life for all Floridians. The project must be large enough. That five years from now people will be like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what they spent the money on.

For infrastructure, the state is expected to get about $13 billion in federal aid over the next five years as part of the Biden administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Some of that money is expected to help finance broadband, an investment supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

Speaking at the dinner, Republican Sen. Jason Brodeur says that’s an area where he’d like to see massive investment. Brodeur says it’s especially necessary in rural counties where telemedicine is in demand but residents lack high-speed Internet access.

“We have entire counties in Florida where we don’t have a psychiatrist who accepts Medicaid, entire counties,” Brodeur said. “So we have very vulnerable populations experiencing huge mental health issues that don’t have access to anything. ”

Another pot of federal money that lawmakers will figure out how to spend in the coming weeks is earmarked for education. The state has received about $15 billion during the COVID-19 pandemic to help safely reopen schools.

Republican Rep. Randy Fine is the chairman of the K-12 appropriations subcommittee. For him, it is money that the state does not really need, but must spend. So far, the state has not appropriated about $12 billion of that total.

“When the federal government borrows money and gives it to us for things we don’t need? What are we going to do with all this? Now we’re trying, we’re trying to fill in, where can we fill in? Where can we get things done?

Not everyone who spoke at the dinner criticized the massive investment of federal aid dollars.

State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is also a Democratic candidate for governor, praised the Biden administration for spending more money to help families and the state economy recover.

“While we are incredibly fortunate to have abundant resources from the federal government, ensuring that those resources are distributed fairly and equitably, and that the best possible way to help our families continue to work and benefit Florida taxpayers will be one one of our state’s greatest challenges. this year.”

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