Five military bases are located within Senate President Don Gaetz’ Northwest Florida district. Thousands of workers earn their pay at those bases, or from affiliated aerospace and defense companies nearby.
Because President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders failed to reach a compromise to avoid automatic cuts to military spending, Gaetz said, that leaves those workers wondering if they’ll be laid off, furloughed or earn less money this year. The cuts are known as sequestration, and are part of a 2011 deal to raise the nation’s borrowing limit.
Florida lawmakers can’t rely on state projections of a small budget surplus this year until the Congress and the president agree on a budget, said Gaetz, R-Niceville.
“The abject failure of this president and this Congress to even pass a Mother’s Day resolution without having a Hatfield’s and McCoy’s family picnic is the cloud that hangs over the Florida economy and makes it very difficult for us to predict how much money we’ll have to operate,” Gaetz said.
Gaetz said lawmakers would like to boost K-12 funding, particularly programs which emphasize career training.
Gov. Rick Scott has asked for $480 million to pay teachers more. The Florida Department of Education is seeking $441.8 million to upgrade new technology. Gaetz says sequestration might prevent lawmakers from doing either if the president and Congress don’t agree on a deal by the end of the 60-day legislative session.
“The real question is not which multi-hundred million dollar initiative we can implement, but whether we can implement any,” Gaetz said. “We are operating now on a knife’s edge of a slight increase in revenues over last year…If [the president and Congress] continue to be leaderless and ineffective, then the state of Florida could be pushed face down into a pool of red ink and all of these things that we want to do could be imperiled.”