Raises for Florida teachers now facing new scrutiny amid pandemic

Coronavirus

(Cap News photo)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Cap News Services) – While Governor DeSantis and Commissioner of Education
Richard Corcoran on Thursday pushed to fully open schools this fall, Gov. DeSantis still hasn’t received the new budget, which takes effect in July.

The budget includes significant raises for teachers and others, but those raises may no longer be something the state can afford.

Florida lawmakers set aside $500 million for teacher raises, another $400 million for state employees, and $54 million for an additional boost for correctional officers with Gov. DeSantis going as far as telling lawmakers to make 2020, ‘the year of the teacher’.

But with the coronavirus pandemic, all bets are off.

In late March, the governor, without being asked, put the teacher raises in play.

“You look at the teacher compensation, obviously, we put a lot into that. And we’ll see what happens with the budget, but that’s important,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.

April’s revenue expectations were down more than $800 million with May’s numbers likely to be just as bad.

Florida TaxWatch is recommending at least $136 million in vetos of projects that did not get a proper review.

There is also $500 million in member projects that could be in their sights.

“We’re asking the governor to take a close look at all member projects,” said Kurt Wenner with Florida TaxWatch.

To make up pandemic losses, TaxWatch is also recommending the state sign a new gaming deal with the Seminole Tribe.

TaxWatch President Dominic Calabro estimates collecting sales taxes from online sales could be worth more than $1 billion.

“I suspect by the second or third year, we’re looking at two billion,” said Calabro.

A new gaming deal and collecting taxes already owed on remote sales could together raise almost $3 billion a year after fully implemented when asked specifically about whether it would recommend vetoing the raises, Calabro said it’s a possibility.

“We’ll be looking at those, among many others-among many others. We’ll be looking at all of those things. Everything is and should be on the table,” said Calabro.

The state does have over $4 billion in reserves and that much and more from federal pandemic relief, but that may not be enough to cover the economic damage expected for months to come.

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