Florida’s new state budget should be guided by one premise: That every Floridian deserves opportunity to achieve the American dream. As the Democratic ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, I will work to ensure that Florida makes a commitment to equity and opportunity for all, secure jobs with upward income mobility, safe communities, a strong education system and affordable health care.
In the House Democratic Caucus, our priorities are clear: putting children, families and education first; investing in jobs and innovation for Floridians; protecting our environment; and promoting public safety and health, as well our state’s great diversity and workforce.
I am optimistic about the upcoming legislative session. I expect bipartisan leadership and progress to keep Florida’s economy on an upward trajectory. And I believe the Legislature can craft a “Job-Creation Budget” that prioritizes investments in education, health care and innovative public infrastructure projects, some of which can be met by assisting local governments.
For the first time in five years, the Legislature will not begin a regular session facing a budget shortfall.We are estimated to have a significant budget surplus, which means we can do more than window-dress education issues and teacher compensation needs. This year, we can invest in our future workforce by focusing on education and health care. Doing so, we will begin to shift state investment from addressing problems after they develop to preventing them in the first place. Expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act, for instance, is an affordable approach to ending Florida’s problem of a vast uninsured populace and it will accelerate economic recovery.
Florida must achieve a broader economy, with more high-tech jobs and investments in new industries. Unfortunately, after years of neglect, Florida’s needs are great, especially when it comes to our state’s infrastructure. Roads, bridges and works projects are investments that create jobs and economic development in the private sector. Thus, it’s imperative that the Legislature does not raid a vital Transportation Trust Fund.
There is much work to be done to rebuild a strong, secure middle class and further expand economic opportunity. Doing so starts with reinvesting in public education, making health care more affordable for individual Floridians and small businesses and making smart choices for a growing economy.