By Andrew Powell | The Center Square contributor
(The Center Square) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a news conference in Tallahassee Wednesday to discuss his “Framework for Freedom” budget.
DeSantis’ proposed $114.8 billion budget contains some tax relief measures as the economy in the Sunshine State has performed far better than other states. Last year the state surplus was over $20 billion, and DeSantis stated that this money needs to go back to the people.
“Where you have a growing state where there’s infrastructure needs, you don’t want to just have all this money just sitting there because that’s telling me that you’re not doing as good a job as you need to be doing, returning money back to the people with tax relief.” DeSantis said.
Several tax relief initiatives have already started as of Jan. 1 after a December special session gave $500 million to Floridians in toll relief, saving some hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in a year.
“We’re going to continue to lead on fiscal responsibility and make sure that our state is not drowning in debt,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis unveiled a long list of other essential items that will become permanently tax free including diapers and baby products like wipes, food, clothing, cribs and strollers.
Pet owners will no longer pay tax for over the counter pet medications, as DeSantis pointed out, “they’re parts of our family too, and these are things that you need to do.”
This also includes no taxes for pet food.
Household items under $25 will be getting a one-year tax-free holiday, from everything from trash bags to detergents.
All dental hygiene products are tax free, and this also includes toiletries.
Parents of school children will also benefit from the massive $1.5 billion relief package as children’s books, toys and equipment will now be tax free and when it comes time to purchase new school stationary, there will be a continuation of the already existing 14-day tax holiday to purchase these items.
Disaster preparation will continue with a two-week sales tax holiday for all approved merchandise and DeSantis added that the budget will also cover funds specifically set aside for any future disasters.
Teachers will be offered pay increases to retain and recruit more staff, with $1 billion allocated for that purpose.
Law enforcement agencies such as the Highway Patrol and Fish and Wildlife are likewise going to get pay increases to help recruit and retain staff. There are bonuses of up to $5,000 for new hires included in the governor’s budget.
Over $330 million will be allocated to health services for women and children, including enhanced services for pregnant women and postpartum.
Around $9 million has been allocated for Alzheimer’s research and services and DeSantis also added that $20 million will be for fighting the fentanyl crisis.
Rural communities are also getting a boost with increased infrastructure such as high speed internet access.