WILLISTON, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis spoke at the Ivy House Restaurant in Williston Friday morning, joined by Florida Secretary of Department of Economic Opportunity Dane Eagle. The governor announced a series of grant awards for $22.3 million in workforce development and infrastructure, with $17 million going to rural counties and small cities in Florida.

As he’s done in previous engagements alongside DEO Secretary Eagle, DeSantis was in Williston to deliver a Job Growth Grant Fund award. The sign on the podium for the event read “Infrastructure Improvements,” similar to other awards given in different parts of Florida.

DeSantis introduced a variety of local lawmakers and officials who were also present for the event, then jumped into the announcement.

“We’re excited to be able to make this award today for many communities throughout Florida,” DeSantis said. But first, he critiqued the administration of President Joe Biden, making comments on gas prices and inflation.

“Look, they’re not exactly on a winning streak. They’ve got a lot of problems,” DeSantis said. “They’ve fueled nasty inflation, you look at gas prices, $4, $4.50, $5 for unleaded, that’s way higher than it was just a year, year and a half ago. They’re not doing anything to alleviate that by doing more domestic energy.”

Repeating previous comments, DeSantis criticized how the federal government has “printed so much money that they’ve got massive inflation.” It’s a practice that he blames on Biden but that started under his presidential predecessor, Donald Trump, to address COVID-19 response. He said the U.S. was “floundering on the world stage” and complained about high inflation rates of 8.5%, saying inflation was actually higher. As previously reported, the 8.5% inflation rate is aggregated on collective price increases across all industries and products.

Then DeSantis discussed a new initiative proposed by the Biden administration called the “Bureau of Disinformation,” inside the Department of Homeland Security.

“As if they don’t have enough issues, but they have this idea and I honestly thought this was a belated April Fools’ joke, but in the Department of Homeland Security, they are going to create a ‘Bureau of Disinformation.’ It’s basically a ‘Ministry of Truth,'” DeSantis said. “What they want to do is they want to be able to put out false narratives without people being able to speak out and fight back. They want to be able to say things like ‘Russia collusion’ and perpetuate hoaxes and have people like us be silenced. They want to be able to advocate for COVID lockdowns, they want to be able to advocate for school closures, things that are not supported by the evidence. But when you want to speak out they want to stifle dissent. So we reject this bureau in the state of Florida.”

DeSantis said the state believes it’s essential that Floridians and all Americans be able to speak out “against false narratives trying to being jammed down our throats by this regime.”

“We know that they actually appointed somebody to lead it who herself has been an advocate for COVID lockdowns, who herself has put out misinformation about the Hunter Biden tapes, who supported Russia collusion conspiracy theories,” DeSantis said. “This is not acceptable, and in Florida we’re not going to have it. Let’s get real here, let’s start dealing with issues that people actually care about. Let’s stop trying…when you’re not doing well, there’s two ways to do it. You can try to do better, then maybe people will like what you’re doing better. Or you can try shut up everybody who’s criticizing your policies. And it seems like they’re trying to do the latter, they want to stifle dissent. I can feel though that the public is sick of this. And you also see it with Elon Musk purchasing Twitter. They wanted to use Twitter as a way to enforce the narrative. When you do things like talk about things that conflict with what people like Fauci say, and these are very eminent people who come out and show how what he’s saying is wrong, they will silence, they’ll de-platform you. They will censor you. That is something for a free society to not be able to speak out on these major platforms, where so much speech goes on, you know, that’s a huge huge problem. And Musk saw that. And Musk saw people being censored, he saw websites like the Babylon Bee, a satire site, being locked out because they had the temerity to do satire about some of the transgender ideology. So what he’s doing, I don’t think the board wanted to accept the offer, but they had to because financially it made sense.”

DeSantis said Florida had informed Twitter that they’d be breaching their fiduciary duty over the company by ignoring the offer, weighing in because the state of Florida’s pension fund invested in shares of the company.

“They’ve got to do what’s right in the interest of the shareholders, they can’t reject Musk’s offer because they’re afraid he’s going to open it up, and for political reasons,” DeSantis said. “I think it shows you there’s a lot of momentum behind having free speech, a lot of momentum so people can speak the truth, particularly speaking the truth to a very decaying and discredited ruling elite in this country. So this is going to potentially be an engine where people can speak the truth and fight back. I think with the principles that this country was founded on, you cannot have a Ministry of Truth in this country.”

DeSantis said we should do things that benefit Floridians and Americans, and that the state would fight back against Biden and this new proposal. Then the governor addressed the state’s economy, noting its $20 billion budget surplus. It is also worth noting that a large portion of that surplus, which has remained over the past two years of the pandemic, is due to investments and relief funds from the federal government under both presidents Trump and Biden. Money from the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan Act both contributed funds to assist with deficits, state functions, and paying for essential needs as the economy turned down due to COVID-19.

“We’re getting $600, $700 million over estimate, which was what we had in March, and we’re likely to have the same in April,” DeSantis said. “Just from when they did the most recent estimates, you’ve now taken in probably over two billion extra dollars over that no one was thinking about. We’ll do May and June as well. We’re going to end this fiscal year with by far the biggest budget surplus this state has ever seen.”

The governor said part of that is because the state had protected people’s freedoms and kept the economy and schools open, but also “understood” that they needed to be prepared. DeSantis said he was betting Biden would push the country into a recession, but he hoped it didn’t happen.

“The good news about Florida is we’re ready,” DeSantis said. “I have so much in reserve, we just plug. If there’s some type of budget hiccup, we just plug the hole and move on. We literally would not have to do anything major to deter us from our approach, and so that’s really what good governance is about.”

DeSantis said making sure you’re looking at what may happen down the road and respond accordingly is what Florida would do, and that members of law enforcement didn’t have to worry about what the “Brandon administration” was doing. It was a reference to “Let’s Go Brandon,” an anti-Biden message picked up by many of the country’s conservative critics of Biden, following a NASCAR race where crowds chanted harsh language against the president, which media reports mischaracterized as cheers for a race winner.

The governor said dealing with the economy, the state wanted to “make more things in Florida” as supply chain issues continue. He said there was a big opportunity to expand Florida’s manufacturing base and train new workers through vocational training programs and education initiatives. He said cost of living increases were a problem, and the state was working to bring benefits to Florida residents from business developments.

“That’s why we’ve worked so hard on career education and technical education. If you look at what they’re doing right now for truck drivers, they’re paying $15,000 signing bonuses just to be a truck driver. Right off the bat, they’re paying $110,000 in Walmart to be a truck driver, right off the bat,” DeSantis said. “So we’ve expanded commercial drivers license opportunities for people throughout Florida so you can train and go get that. And now all of a sudden they’re giving signing bonuses? They never used to do that.”

The governor mentioned how vocational training efforts were helping people looking to be welders and perform other industrial jobs to get higher salaries, even fresh out of high school, through the apprenticeships and trade programs in Florida. He, as he’s done in the past, critiqued the levels of debt for going to “Ivy League” universities and poking fun at students with degrees in “Zombie studies.”

“You look at how much people have gone into debt,” DeSantis said. “They end up working where they could’ve worked out of high school anyways. And I also think what Biden’s doing, you look at the student debt out there, almost 60% of it is graduate school debt. These are people like doctors and lawyers, people who are getting masters and PhDs and stuff. My view is this, why would you make a truck driver or a waitress or a construction worker pay off the debt for someone who did a PhD in gender studies? That’s wrong.”

DeSantis said there were opportunities through skilled trades to have people with no debt go right into gainful employment. He said it was important for economic development when attracting companies to move to Florida. Then he announced new efforts to provide tax relief for Floridians and other efforts for economic initiatives.

DeSantis said Florida would help navigate the worst inflation in 40 years, then announced a series of grant awards for $22.3 million in workforce development and infrastructure, with $17 million going to rural counties and small cities in Florida. He said it included funding for broadband development, new community centers, and grants for small business development. In Levy County, $1.4 million would be used for town-wide broadband in Otter Creek, according to DeSantis. He said it would help with education and economic development. Additional awards across the state include $4.3 million in Key West, $3.8 million in Lake County, Astatula. $3.5 million would go to the City of Hawthorne, $2.7 million for Fellsmere, $1.4 million for Tampa, $1 million for DeSoto County, $500,000 for Marion County, among other awards to come.

“We’re going to do these checks and that’s great. But we’re also going through the fiscal 2022-2023 budget that the legislature passed,” DeSantis said. “There’s individual items in there and the governor has to go in there and do a line-item vetoes on these individual items, or do you approve the individual items. There’s actually almost $500,000 in the budget for Levy County Bird Creek boat ramp, to add a new boardwalk and two new covered pavilions. So should I sign it or veto it?”

The crowd said to sign, and DeSantis said he would approve the measure to fund the construction in Bird Creek. Then he presented the checks for the awarded funds.