FORT PIERCE, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke in Fort Pierce at the 2nd Street Bistro. Joined at the event by Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Dane Eagle, signage read “Infrastructure Improvements.” The governor announced awards from the Job Growth Grant Fund in St. Lucie County.

He announced a $2.7 million award to redevelop the King’s Landing site in Fort Pierce, saying it would allow the city to reconstruct aging utility infrastructure, part of Indian River Drive, and make pedestrian safety enhancements, as well as improve the Moores Creek Bridge.

DeSantis introduced local lawmakers and federal congressman, as well as other state officials before discussing the state budget and surplus, as well as state tax burdens, as he’s done in the past. He also compared Florida’s work in education and infrastructure needs to other states that he said “waste money.” DeSantis said the tax increases in places like New York are not going to public safety, noting their rising crime rates.

He called Florida “the place where people want to go if they want to be free,” and noted the state’s record tourism level compared to previous years. DeSantis mentioned the higher tourism rate, and that Florida was already outpacing 2021 by 20% in 2022. The governor criticized sports officials blocking Djokovic coming to the U.S. for tennis competitions due to his lack of vaccination for COVID-19, calling it “nonsense,” saying state vaccination policies were the correct way to operate.

“That’s why our unemployment rate is lower than the national average, in July we clocked in at 2.7% and the nation was 3.5%,” DeSantis said. “We actually have more people employed now than we did prior to COVID, and no one predicted that. They thought we, our entire hospitality and leisure industry was going to end up collapsing, and we lifted it up and made sure that people were able to do that.”

The governor said the state’s labor force was growing “much better” than the country as a whole, despite “headwinds” from Washington, saying that policies of President Joe Biden were contributing to inflation in groceries, rental costs, and other economic factors, including energy.

“You see it with energy, I think it’s intentional, they’re really trying to make it hard to produce oil and gas here in the United States,” DeSantis said. “If you look at what’s going on in Europe, they’re facing some really serious problems because of some of the choices they made with respect to energy. Massive, massive spikes, and that can get ugly, very, very quickly.”

The governor said it was a national security and economic security issue for the U.S., and that the country needed to be able to produce enough energy to run the economy and keep it affordable.

“That is not what Biden has wanted to do. He thinks that somehow you’re not going to have oil and gas, it’s just going to be windmills and solar,” DeSantis said. “That’s just not gonna happen. Florida, we’ve got a lot of solar, that’s fine, it’s a complement, but it’s not a substitute to run an economy.”

DeSantis also took issue with recently passed legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act, saying it put taxes on energy and calling it a “no-no,” in addition to saying the bill’s effort to expand the Internal Revenue Service through 87,000 new staff would be used to come after “people the government doesn’t like.” He said the IRS would not come after billionaires, but would instead target those who “can’t defend themselves.”

The governor said billionaires already have lawyers and accountants, and criticized an amendment being voted down that would protect Americans who make less than $400,000.

“Why would they not have wanted do that? Because they want this to be something that is going after sole proprietors, and handymen, and people that own restaurants, or people that drive an Uber,” DeSantis said. “It’s going to be those folks that have the least able to withstand an audit that they’re going after, because it’s really the low-hanging fruit. Probably scrounge a lot of stuff. It’s not a great thing for the economy, unleashing the IRS.”

Without lawyers, DeSantis said mobilizing the IRS was “reprehensible” and said the senators and representatives who passed the bill should be audited every year by the IRS, before again criticizing the recent student loan decision by the Biden administration, saying the president does not have the unilateral power to do so due to constitutional separations of power.

Focusing on workforce education initiatives prioritized by the state, the governor said efforts to boost workforce training and infrastructure had done a lot to help the state’s economy grow, and announced a $2.7 million award to redevelop the King’s Landing site in Fort Pierce.

In addition to work on the King’s Landing site in Fort Pierce, DeSantis said the grant would allow the city to reconstruct aging utility infrastructure, fix part of Indian River Drive, and make pedestrian safety enhancements, as well as improve the Moores Creek Bridge.

After the Fort Pierce mayor and Sec. Eagle spoke, DeSantis returned to the podium. The governor spoke about the economy nationally, saying that without Texas and Florida, things would be much worse. He said society has started fraying, and that cities like New York and San Francisco were less safe and having “huge problems.”

He said lack of prosecutions on things like theft if what was stolen was below a certain value was “emboldening” criminals and that by doing so they were “letting the inmates run the asylum,” saying he favored supporting law enforcement.

Without saying specific names, DeSantis referred to the recent suspension of a state attorney in Florida for lack of prosecutions, among other policies, and that they were removed for not doing the job.

Describing the impetus behind policy decisions, DeSantis said he wanted the state to have policies in place that benefit everyone, regardless of political party.

Then, he addressed his absence at a recent political event on Sunday and then Monday. He said it was a tragedy, but not one related to his family.

DeSantis’ appearance in Fort Pierce was the first public event the governor attended after canceling a campaign appearance in New York due to an “unforeseen tragedy,” Monday.

The governor had canceled his appearance in New York to campaign for gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin, and instead attended a memorial service for Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent Jose Perez. Special Agent Perez was was injured in the line of duty in a vehicle crash on Aug. 3 while responding to a building alarm, according to the governor’s office.

Perez died on Aug. 20. The memorial service was held Monday and flags across Florida were flown at half-staff in his honor.

Before the event closed, DeSantis addressed the selection of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist’s running mate, a teachers union president from Miami-Dade County. He said the candidate for Lt. Governor had, during the COVID-19 pandemic, been more focused on lockdown policies than helping students.

DeSantis said the union president had also focused more on protecting their “henchman” in Miami over protecting students from sexual abuse, saying that a teacher there had been protected by the union rather. He said that teacher was now in jail.