OCALA, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference on Wednesday at an appliance store in Ocala to highlight tax relief proposals he made earlier this month when pitching a $114.8 billion state budget.
DeSantis was joined at MVB Appliance by Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner on a stage flanked by boxed diapers, children’s toys and other such items that would be absolved of sales tax under proposed budget items.
“We have to take some of this money, a big chunk of it, and return it to taxpayers and give taxpayers savings, particularly when you see inflation the way it’s been over the last year and a half to two years,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis’ “Framework for Freedom” budget proposal would involve $2 billion in proposed tax savings.
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Looking past $500 million earmarked for toll relief, a flyer distributed at the event Wednesday summarized the following smaller budget items proposed:
- $139 million - Baby/toddler necessities, permanent sales tax exemption.
- $224 million - “Freedom Summer” sales tax holiday for outdoor recreation and entertainment purchases, Memorial Day to Labor Day.
- $17 million - Children’s books (17 & under), 1-year sales tax exemption.
- $4 million - Cribs and strollers, permanent sales tax exemption.
- $133 million - Children’s toys (2-12 y/o), 1-year sales tax exemption.
- $7 million - Gas stoves, permanent sales tax exemption.
- $210 million - Expansion of Back to School sales tax holiday, two weeks in the fall and two weeks in the spring.
- $138 million - Household items under $25, 1-year sales tax exemption.
- $43 million - Children’s athletic equipment, 1-year sales tax exemption.
- $170 million - Pet food, 1-year sales tax exemption.
- $34 million - Over-the-counter pet medications, permanent sales tax exemption.
- $45 million - Oral hygiene products, 1-year sales tax exemption.
- $72 million - Medicinal cosmetics and toiletries, 1-year sales tax exemption.
- $123 million - “Tax cut holidays from 2022-23 to be reestablished in 2023-24.”
- $141 million - “Permanent increased savings for electronic filings for small businesses.”
To touch briefly on the gas stoves, only 8% of Florida homes were found to be using a natural gas cooking appliance in 2020, with 92% of homes on electric, according to the U.S. Emergency Information Administration. In fact, throughout the entire South in 2020, the EIA found natural gas was the primary range fuel for 7.74% of households.
“The way Florida was built up, it was built more around electric stoves, more and more people now can get gas lines- I mean, look, I think the gas is better for preparing food, but that’s your choice, but why would you try to ban this? It’s so irrational, but it shows they are coming for any little thing in your life that they can do and I think what they want to be able to do is they ultimately want to control the amount of energy you consume, and so if everyone’s on one system, they can throttle that or do- I think that’s the ultimate vision that they’re working to, and that does not fly in the state of Florida, so we’re not going to let that happen here,” DeSantis said.
The boxes stacked in a wall formation behind DeSantis’ stage displayed the model No. WFE505W0JS, suggesting each contained an electric Whirlpool range.
Meanwhile Wednesday, in Lake Buena Vista, the Reedy Creek Improvement District Board of Supervisors met earlier that morning.
In the latest development of DeSantis’ feud with Disney over Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Law, a bill introduced Monday at the onset of a special session would give Florida control of the district, changing its name to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and allowing DeSantis to appoint a five-member oversight board.
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When asked to explain what exactly would happen to Disney’s debt, DeSantis told a reporter that Disney would simply pay it, because “that’s exactly what this proposed piece of legislation will do.”
“Disney is going to pay its debt, and I think if you remember when we did the initial special session where we set the sunset date and we knew we’d have to deal with this, I always said that they’re gonna come in and we’re gonna figure out the best way to do it,” DeSantis said. “...If you remember when we first went down this road last spring, a lot of folks in the media were saying that, ‘Oh my gosh, Disney is actually going to pay less taxes and Floridians are going to pay more taxes.’ They were saying that! And I’m like ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ Well, this puts that to bed, and so those debts will be honored and those will be paid now; this is obviously now going to be controlled by the state of Florida, which is no longer self-governing for them, so there’s a new sheriff in town and that’s just the way it’s gonna be.”
Following up, when a reporter wanted to know why the state would not wait until the regular session to pass the Reedy Creek legislation, Renner told them “we don’t wait around to fix things.”
Concerning how critics of Reedy Creek point to the fact no other theme park complex in the area is afforded the same privileges, such as tax exemptions, a reporter wanted to know what would actually change, given that the improvement district will still exist under a new name.
“Well actually there’s a provision in there — and they can correct me — that actually gives the state the ability to tax Disney for a lot of the benefits that they’ve accrued over the years and so they will actually be subject to more ability to be taxed. You also have a board that’s going to be in place that’s going to maybe more accurately determine the value of the property in terms of getting that relief there,” DeSantis said. “...There were a lot of things that were stripped in terms of some of the special provisions, you know, there were some that were retained, and they can make the decision, but I think that will not be in Disney’s control. That’ll be in the control of the state government to use, and one of the things I’ve said- and when I appoint the board members, I will say ‘Disney needs to live under the same laws as everybody else,’ so they will be able to apply the same type of laws in that local district that are applied to their competitors.”
Concerning a series of posts made this week to former president Donald Trump’s Truth Social account alleging DeSantis partied and drank with students as a high school teacher, News 6′s Mark Lehman asked the governor if any ideas discussed during a panel Tuesday — held to brainstorm legislation bolstering Floridians’ defamation protections as they relate to the media — DeSantis said any new legislation to that effect would not necessarily be for him.
“I have a platform, it’s different for me because I can fight back and people just know- I face defamatory stuff every single day I’ve been governor, that’s just the nature of it, but I have a platform to fight back. A lot of these other people that are more little, they don’t necessarily have a platform to fight back, and so in terms of our reforms, I really want to empower them more so than people that occupy high positions like me. It just goes with the territory, you gotta have a thick skin,” DeSantis said, adding he “would not take time out of being governor” to fight lawsuits.
“I’d also just say this: I spend my time delivering results for the people of Florida and fighting against Joe Biden. That’s how I spend my time. I don’t spend my time trying to smear other Republicans,” DeSantis said.
Watch Wednesday’s news conference again in the video player below:
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