TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at the Lafayette County Courthouse in Mayo on Wednesday, announcing millions of dollars for development in infrastructure and expanding broadband across the state. The governor was joined by Dane Eagle, Secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, to award funding to local stakeholders.

Signage at the event read “Infrastructure Improvements: Lafayette County.” Similar signage has been used at events where the governor announces new grant awards from the state to aid in job creation and development across Florida.

“We’ve got some great announcements today, it’s a great day to be in the free state of Florida, as always” DeSantis said. Then he introduced a few of the speakers, officials and lawmakers accompanying him for the event. “We’re going to cut some checks here for you today.”

Before getting to the awards, the governor addressed the latest Consumer Price Index, which was published Wednesday.

“They just did another report on inflation and what’s going on with our economy,” DeSantis said. “And some people are trying to spin it that it went down a little bit in the last month, but the problem is it came in higher than expected. If you look at really what went down in April, some of the energy, China was locking their citizens down. So they weren’t using as much. What have we seen with energy in May already? It’s going back up, and we’re not even in summer driving season yet. I think it was a really, really destructive report.”

DeSantis said Florida guarded its people’s money well and didn’t print money that it doesn’t have, and the state spends reasonably.

“The result is we have the biggest budget surplus we’ve ever had in the history of the state right now,” DeSantis said. “And we have no income tax, we have the lowest per capita tax burden in the country. And even though we have better roads, services, schools, and universities than a state like New York, which has three million fewer people than us, their budget is over twice the size of our budget. Where does all that money go? We’re doing it right, we’re protecting taxpayers, people have obviously been able to keep their businesses open, jobs, all that stuff, very important. But if you look in Washington, they’ve printed trillions of dollars. All this money, what did you think is going to happen? Everyone was warning about this when they did it last year, 12, 15 months ago and they’ve continued to do it.”

The governor, who has made similar comments before, also blamed the federal policies for rising inflation and the impact on wages.

“Here’s the problem, people’s wages, real wages, are going down when you have this type of inflation. You could end up getting a 7% pay increase nominally, but if everything costs 8, 9, 10% more, then you’ve lost ground,” DeSantis said. “And the way they calculate this inflation, the stuff that really matters has gone up way more than 8%.”

DeSantis pointed to gas, groceries, utility costs and how much the prices have risen, saying “it’s hard not to pay for gas if you have to go to work” and that it was “really having a negative impact” on Americans.

“Because of that and a because of a lot of the mismanagement, I think it’s very possible we see Biden plunge this country into a recession,” DeSantis said. “I hope that’s not true, what we’ve done in Florida though is say ‘we can’t control what’s going on in DC, all we can control is here. So, we’ve done really well, a lot of opportunities in this state, obviously when these other states were closed and we were open, it made it a lot easier for us to gain ground. So we were doing that and we were happy to do it, but if there is a downturn, one I think our economy is just better positioned to weather it than some other states are, but if we have a slowdown in revenue because of some of the things in DC is going, because we have such a big surplus, I don’t miss a beat on what the state’s doing. We just take some from the reserve and we just put it into the budget. So all of the stuff we’ve been working so hard on, public safety, education, all of those things, all of that will continue because we’ve planned ahead.”

DeSantis said he hoped the recession doesn’t happen, but he said he could not “think of such a stretch where we’ve had so many misguided policies that” were implemented. He said the latest CPI inflation report disappointed him.

“There’s not really an end in sight, the way it’s going,” DeSantis said. “And with the gas, I have not seen it under $4 in Florida for unleaded for a long time. And we actually, it’s even higher than just $4 here, and we are on the lower end of prices nationally because our taxes are lower than these other places. There are actually places where prices are over $5 a gallon for unleaded for the last however many couple of months. California is actually $6 something because they tax it so much.”

DeSantis said we needed to do more domestic energy production, like under President Donald Trump, and expressed concern over permitting processes for oil production in the United States.

“We have Keystone, ANWAR, they say you can apply for lease on federal land, but these companies know they’re never going to get permitted for it, so why are they going to go through with all of this, because they know that really the government doesn’t want them to do all of this,” DeSantis said. “So we’re basically in a situation where we’re stepping on our own neck, as as country by not being energy independent. You’re begging OPEC to lower the price, you’re begging Maduro from Venezuela maybe to give us some of his oil. How does it work? Our oil causes global warming but Maduro’s doesn’t cause global warming? How does that makes sense to anybody. So the number one thing he could do to help with inflation would be to expand our own energy production. That would be a huge relief for all of…”

DeSantis mentioned the tax relief efforts he signed into law Friday, with tax holidays for fuel, and many other items, such as diapers and baby clothing, then credited the legislature for their relief ideas.

“You can sit there and do some of this stuff if you just got serious about the energy, that would be a huge difference,” DeSantis said. “Because if we were serious about energy, you wouldn’t have $4.30 a gallon gas. It may have gone up a little bit with general inflation but we’d probably at like $2.50 a gallon if we were just doing what we could. I hope that they’ll reverse course on that but I don’t think they will.”

Then DeSantis discussed the recently announced Disinformation Bureau from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“The other thing I think that’s really significant that’s happened over the last couple of weeks is the federal government has now created within the department of homeland security a disinformation bureau, where the government is going to tell us what is true,” DeSantis said. “And then what we want to say, they’re going to say is disinformation. They are going to try to marginalize people who dissent from their orthodoxy. They’re going to try to get people canceled, if you dissent from their orthodoxy. Just think about how this has played over the last two years. Federal government, CDC, Fauci would say if you get COVID you do not get natural immunity.”

DeSantis said we knew that was untrue at the time, and that he had said if “you recovered from COVID you were protected.” Instead, DeSantis said officials denied the existence of natural immunity “to the huge detriment to the credibility of all of these government agencies, like the CDC.”

“You’re denying things that are scientific facts, that are obvious based on the dat just because it suits your political agenda, people see that and then they don’t trust you in the future,” DeSantis said.

The governor referred to his stance on keeping children in school and “the media outlets saying that’s disinformation” even though DeSantis said other parts of the world had children in school and it was evidence-based. Now, he said media has changed their stance, but are not “identifying truth” and instead “elevate their own political narratives” and trying to stop dissent and “sell” narratives to the people.

“The narratives that they’re trying to sell us are not credible narratives, so people like us want to speak out against that, they want to try to find ways to marginalize,” DeSantis said. He described the nominated leader of the disinformation bureau as someone who has participated in disinformation herself and as “totally off her rocker.”

“What I think they’re going to do is determine what’s acceptable, what is ‘disinformation’ and they’re going to expect the social media companies to do their dirty work,” DeSantis said. “So if this bureau identifies something as disinformation, the expectation is Google, and Facebook, and Twitter until Musk gets ahold of it, that they’re going to have to then go and do it. First of all, that’s wrong. You can’t subcontract out to private companies, violations of our Constitution. So in Florida, we’re going to make sure we’re fighting back against that if they do it.”

DeSantis said that while some companies claim they’re private and therefore not subject to First Amendment protections, that is debatable, referring back to Florida’s 2021 Big Tech Censorship law, and how the tech companies had sued and gotten an injunction. The case has proceeded in court. DeSantis said the state is optimistic, but a decision has not yet come down from a judge.

“When you are doing the government’s bidding as a private corporation, then you are subjected to First Amendment protections for people,” DeSantis said. “If Fauci is telling you to censor, or the DHS is telling you to censor and you are doing it at their behest, then you are not treated as a private company and you must abide by the First Amendment.”

The governor said the state was looking at it, but that if “they were smart,” the federal government would cancel the plans for the disinformation bureau and efforts to “marginalize” Americans with dissenting views.

In a more personal moment, DeSantis thanked Floridians for their support of his wife, Casey DeSantis during her treatment for breast cancer.

“I’d just like to say thank you to everybody here who has prayed for my wife over these last many months,” DeSantis said. “We were able to, uh, she actually came out and was able to give part of a speech, I guess it was Monday night down in the Villages. They actually had a DeSantis Day dinner, so I go up to speak and say ‘you know you didn’t say which one you wanted to speak,’ me or her, because more people want to hear her speak than me.”

DeSantis said the First Lady was able to give a speech, and thank supporters.

“I tell you, when you go through something like this, all I’m trying to do is be supportive, be positive,” DeSantis said. “It’s tough, it takes a toll, mentally, because you just don’t know when something like that happens. I can tell you when we first got the news, it was really rough for her, and then when we announced it publicly, we figured she’s a public person, it is private but at the same time we just wanted people to know she’s not out there as much as here’s why.”

DeSantis said everyone’s thoughts and prayers “had really lifted her up,” and that she was doing well. By coming out publicly, “she’s served as an inspiration for a lot of other women going through this.”

The governor said that, having been through it as a spouse, if his wife could go through it and get through, “then I know I can do it” and told the women out there that they can beat cancer too, even “if it’s not very fun to go through for sure, there absolutely is a light at the end of the tunnel” and the First Lady was proof of that.

Then he addressed the grant awards for Lafayette County.

“We are very proud in Florida of our rural communities, we’ve been able to do a lot,” DeSantis said. “Some of it was when we were called upon when I first became governor, with Hurricane Michael, we had a lot of rural communities in Northwest Florida, I mean that thing was a buzz saw, it was a category 5 storm. It really was almost like a tornado, more so than even a typical, tropically type system. It really left a lot of destruction. We’ve worked really hard to help lift those communities up and we’ve really never stopped.”

He said that the awards today were $7 million in the budget, which he was still reviewing, for Lafayette County. The governor announced that $500,000 for the sheriff’s office radios to be updated, “almost $300,000 for pay raises for our sheriff’s deputies right here in Lafayette County” in addition to the already approved pay raises for law enforcement across the state and the $1,000 bonuses for all officers, had been approved. Another $4.5 million for road resurfacing in the county and $400,000 for public school security systems, and “almost three-quarters of $1 million” to fund maintenance and repairs at three area state parks, were allocated.

Another announcement was to approve “$30 million in the budget for the the rural infrastructure fund for the state of Florida” to be administered by the DEO. The fund provides resources to support rural communities through infrastructure improvements and local workforce expansion.

“Additionally, I’m announcing that we’re approving over $400 million for the broadband opportunity program,” DeSantis said. “This new program will support underserved communities with a focus on connectivity for rural communities to build broadband infrastructure for their residents. We think this will support not only the workforce and the economy, but also education. That will be parceled out to a number of these rural communities” across the state.

Local officials and Lafayette County Sheriff Brian Lamb thanked the governor for his support of rural communities and for funding efforts to improve safety in the area.

A full set of funding allocations was provided the governor’s office after the event:

  • ($296,000) – Salary Increase to Local Law Enforcement Agencies in Fiscally Constrained Counties
  • ($400,000) – Lafayette District Schools Safe and Secure Schools Electronic Access Control Key System (HB  9341) (Senate Form 2646) Fixed Capital Outlay Public Schools Special Projects
  • ($500,000) – Lafayette County Sheriff’s Office Communications (HB 9343) (Senate Form 2507) Law Enforcement – Department of Management Services
  • ($4,586,550) – SR 20 (US 27) from Taylor County Line to Buckville Resurfacing
  • ($22,000) – Lafayette Blue Springs State Park State Park Repairs & Maintenance
  • ($28,000) – Suwannee River Wilderness Trail State Park Repairs & Maintenance
  • ($680,000) – Troy Spring State Park State Park Repairs & Maintenance