DeSantis touts ‘booming’ economy in State of State Address, Democrats call it a ‘presidential pitch’

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The 2022 Florida Legislative Session opened with Governor Ron DeSantis addressing a joint session of the House and Senate Tuesday morning.

DeSantis hit on the economy, COVID-19 and much more in the annual State of the State speech.

He opened with what has become a recognizable refrain we’ve heard often since the start of the pandemic: Florida is the freest state in the nation and the economy is booming because of it.

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DeSantis said Florida’s labor force has grown at six times the rate of the nation as a whole.

DeSantis attributed the economic growth to Florida’s anti-lockdown stance throughout the pandemic and vowed to continue fighting back against vaccine mandates pushed by the federal government.

“In Florida, we have protected the right of our citizens to earn a living, provided our businesses with the ability to prosper, fought back against unconstitutional federal mandates and ensured our kids have the opportunity to thrive,” said DeSantis.

But Democratic Representative Anna Eskamani said there are plenty of areas where Florida’s economy is hurting, including a worsening affordable housing crisis.

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“The Governor’s State of the State was essentially a presidential pitch. He completely ignored the everyday struggles of the people in this state,” Eskamani said.

DeSantis also called for a second round of $1,000 bonuses for teachers and first responders, as well as a 25 percent pay raise for law enforcement.

In his speech, DeSantis took multiple shots at the federal government, blaming its policies for skyrocketing inflation and promised to push for relief for Floridians.

“To help alleviate this burden for Florida families, I am proposing a $1 billion gas tax holiday to help reduce prices at the pump. If Washington, D.C., won’t change course, then we have a responsibility to step up on behalf of Floridians,” DeSantis said.

Eskamani, on the other hand, called the Governor’s jabs at the Biden Administration hypocritical, since a large reason the state’s coffers will be filled with $15 billion in reserves this year is because of federal relief dollars.

“Part of our fiscal strength is tied to the American Rescue Plan, which sent billions of dollars to Florida and in fact, one of the Governor’s primary legislative agendas this session, the temporary gas tax break, is funded $1 billion by the American Rescue Plan,” Eskamani said.

DeSantis’ overall budget proposal rings in at $99.7 billion.

Eskamani said about 30 percent of that is made up of federal dollars.