Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the state’s entirely Republican-controlled legislative branches want to slather the state’s corporations with almost five billion dollars worth of cash giveaways. Meanwhile, residents of the Sunshine State are dealing with the impact of rising rents in a state whose constitution prevents rent controls and the legislature not contemplating any meaningful relief for millions of struggling tenants.
Companies like Lockheed Martin, American Airlines, Avis, Microsoft, Disney, Marriott, and Florida Power and Light will all benefit from these giveaways. Corporations making record profits are going to be subsidized through our tax dollars while people struggle to keep a roof over their heads, those with illnesses can’t get healthcare, and our public schools face budget cuts.
Republicans have controlled Florida for the last two decades, and they don’t have much to show for it. The state ranks 45th in tax fairness ranks 47th in unemployment benefits and ranks near the bottom in access to healthcare. We aren’t at the bottom for everything, though. With over 719 miles of roads built and operational, Florida ranks first in toll roads and second in mass shootings nationwide.
Housing prices have risen more than anywhere across the nation in the last six months. What is the Florida Republican Legislature doing to help people experiencing housing instability right after a traumatizing global pandemic?
Republicans are dithering while Florida is currently in the middle of an unprecedented affordable housing crisis that has seen prices in rent increase up to 40 percent across the state. Yet, some of the legislative proposals being prioritized right now include restricting women’s reproductive rights by establishing an abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest. LGBTQ topics are under threat from being banned in schools, and teachers will be prohibited from giving lessons on the history of racism in this country. Governor Ron DeSantis has made it a priority to prevent unaccompanied migrant children from reuniting with loved ones. Lawmakers also want to block local governments from making decisions to impact corporate profits. Out-of-state companies are pushing a bill to set up perpetual non-refundable monthly fees for renters who can’t afford expensive security deposits.
Our state budget seeks to strip $200 million worth of funding from twelve school districts that instituted temporary mask requirements to protect students. Meanwhile, wages for Floridians continue to lag behind the national average.
Republicans are not limiting themselves to idiotic culture wars. Floridians should be outraged to learn that they also plan on giving $4.8 billion of our tax dollars over the next five years to some of the wealthiest corporations in the state. These corporate handouts, a series of legislative proposals written by and for corporate donors, demonstrate to what extent the legislature has become bought and paid for by special interests in the last 20 years of uninterrupted GOP control.
To get a sense of how out of touch with everyday Floridians the legislature has become, the $4.8 billion in corporate handouts is a larger sum of money than the state has allocated to affordable housing over the last two decades. In 2002, the legislature began to divert one-third of the money collected for the Sadowsky Housing Trust Fund, the state’s only vehicle for long-term investments in affordable housing, to pay for other items in the budget. That’s a total of $2.3 billion that could have gone towards affordable housing, and they have continued this practice of diverting housing funds to pet projects.
Below is a breakdown of which corporations benefit from these giveaways. Bills like HB 417/SB 572 include these tax cuts, which allocate $6 million to the exclusive benefit owners of expensive properties. SB 786/HB 6051 is another egregious example that includes $163.4 million for corporations and millionaires that buy private jets.
What we see in Florida today with Ron DeSantis and his cronies in the legislature of America’s 3rd largest state is the Republican party’s standard reverse of Robin Hood playbook.
That’s why the Republican politicians elected (some clandestinely supported and corruptly placed in office) to represent Floridians are rigging the system against working people. They and DeSantis have sold out to big corporations who use their profits to influence our political process to their benefit.
Republicans are too busy stealing from the poor and giving it to themselves, the rich, to notice that there are any problems in Florida besides bad weather days.
Thomas Kennedy is an elected Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. Twitter: @tomaskenn.
is a former reported opinion columnist and roving correspondent. He's an elected member of the Democratic National Committee from Florida and a fomer Director of Sunshine Agenda Inc. a government transparency nonprofit organization.