OCALA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke in Ocala at MVB Appliance LLC on Southeast 8th Street. The event was focused on tax relief for Floridian families.
The governor has proposed $1.5 billion in tax relief through a variety of budget proposals for the state’s next fiscal year, including items for childcare such as diapers and even making the purchase of stoves tax free, along with multiple tax holiday proposals for 2023.
DeSantis said the proposed tax relief items, mentioned during his budget proposal, includes permanent tax exemptions on baby and toddler necessities, such as diapers, baby clothes, shoes, baby wipes, cribs, strollers, and more.
The governor said the plan was both to provide relief to consumers and make Florida a family friendly state. He also highlighted a plan to permanently exempt gas stove purchases from sales tax. That said, less than 10% of Floridians have gas stoves. Previous budget estimates from the governor’s office during the Framework for Freedom announcement put the savings at about $7 million.
After DeSantis, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo spoke, thanking the governor for his tax policy proposals and saying Florida was “the place to live, retire, and spend money,” before focusing on the tax relief proposals, saying it would help a lot of people.
House Speaker Paul Renner spoke after Passidomo, criticizing spending policies in the nation’s capitol and pointing to new legislative priorities to address workforce housing needs and affordability.
DeSantis introduced a few additional speakers after Renner spoke. They shared stories about how the proposed tax relief would help them and their families.
The governor then opened up for questions. The first was focused on the Reedy Creek Improvement District, Walt Disney World reorganization from the current special legislative session.
“Disney is going to pay its debt. If you remember, when we did the original special session when we set the sunset date, that they’re going to come in and we’re going to figure out the best way to do it,” DeSantis said. “What I said really for the last six, nine months is Disney is no longer going to have self-government. They’re not going to have their own government. Disney is going to pay its fair share of taxes and Disney is going to honor the debt. That’s exactly what this proposed piece of legislation will do.”
As he has in the past, DeSantis criticized media companies for reporting on the possibility that Floridians would face the tax burden upon RCID’s dissolution. DeSantis said that would not be the case and that state control meant “there was a new sheriff in town.”
Related to a proposal to add $1 billion to pay teachers and get them to a minimum $47,500 salary, DeSantis said the goal was to get to a “state average” of the salary, but that rural counties had not hit that level but had still seen increases.
“Obviously, Sarasota, Miami-Dade, some of those are higher, higher cost of living, some of that is there, now with this additional money, we are not requiring it to go to further minimum increases,” DeSantis said. “They can apply it to any way they want. So if those rural counties want to apply that to the average minimum, they will be able to raise the average even higher, that’s their right.”
The governor expanded on it, saying other counties could apply the funds to raising salaries for veteran teachers, but that funds will be restricted solely to salary increases. He criticized teachers unions that “held it up” in the past year.
Responding to a question on his defamation proposal for legislation, DeSantis said that he faced “defamatory stuff” every day of his time in office, but that for those who did not have a platform to fight defamation, the reforms would be focused on “empowering” everyday Floridians. He turned his attention, saying that he did not have time to fight defamation in court.
“I’ll just say this, I spend my time delivering results for the people of Florida and fighting against Joe Biden,” DeSantis said. “That’s how I spend my time. I don’t spend my time trying to smear other Republicans.”
Another question on the proposal to strip Disney’s legal rights in RCID focused on building and exclusive rights that other entertainment and theme park companies, like Universal, did not have.
DeSantis said some of their rights were retained but it was under control of the state government and appointed board, not under Disney directly.
“One of the things I’ve said, and when I appoint the board members I’ll say, Disney needs to live under the same laws as everybody else,” DeSantis said. “They will be able to apply the same type of laws in that same local district that are applied to their competitors.”
He said some of it may have to be done by the yet to be appointed board. An additional question on preempting the June 1 deadline, set by the previous Disney-focused special session, to have Disney resubmit its RCID provisions, Renner said “we don’t wait to fix things.”
Responding to a question on Florida’s effort to import less expensive pharmaceuticals from Canada, DeSantis spoke critically of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, both for delays on that program and the speed that approving mRNA COVID-19 vaccines for infants.
“Here’s my question, if you want to tackle high prescription drug costs, why didn’t you have the FDA approve Florida’s program?” DeSantis said. “They say ‘well we’ve gotta make sure it’s safe.’ They rushed through approval of mRNA vaccines for six month old babies without any data to support it, and they FDA approved that. So why would you not approve this program where we have everything?”
The governor pointed to the warehouses in Polk County waiting for the import program to start, instead saying the state was being stonewalled by the FDA and the federal government.
“If he [Biden] was really serious about it, the FDA would approve it, we know they’ve been stonewalling, there’s actually correspondence saying ‘well we can’t let Florida be first on this,'” DeSantis said. “Because it’s politics to them. They’re keeping you waiting from potentially getting access to cheaper drugs, and I just think this is a no-brainer.”
DeSantis called on healthcare system reforms that protected America from being “captive to big Pharma.” He said they haven’t approved the program because “the FDA has become a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical industry,” then closed out the event.