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CFO Jimmy Patronis Issues Statement Following LBC Meeting

9/10/2020

For Immediate Release: Thursday, September 10, 2020
Contact: Office of Communications, Communications@MyFloridaCFO.com, 850.413.2842

 
CFO Jimmy Patronis Issues Statement Following LBC Meeting
~Deploys CARES Act Transparency Tool & Outlines DFS Efforts to Mitigate Budget Shortfall~
 
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Following today’s meeting of the Joint Florida Legislative Budget Commission (LBC) where the Office of Economic & Demographic Research (EDR) presented information on future budget shortfalls resulting from the global pandemic, Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis issued the following statement where he announced the deployment of a CARES Act transparency tool, and outlined ongoing liability protection efforts and other actions the Department of Financial Services (DFS) has taken to protect Florida’s budget with expected future shortfalls. 
 
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “Today’s presentation from the head of EDR to the LBC demonstrates that while Florida has done an incredible job getting back on our feet, the recovery isn’t finished. The state is facing an over $5 billion shortfall going into the next three fiscal years, and assuming there are no more dollars coming from Washington, we’ll have to use almost every trick in the book to balance the budget. While state tourism has taken a hit and our sales tax collections aren’t where they were pre-pandemic, we’re starting to see the parks in central Florida re-open, and from my vantage point, the Panhandle’s tourist activity has been going gangbusters in certain areas. In short, we’ve got time to turn this thing around and all of this can be done without raising taxes and squashing struggling businesses.
 
“I served in the Legislature during the great recession and Florida was facing hard decisions and the people of Florida should know we’ve been here before and we’ll get through this together. We’re lucky to have a Governor that’s strategic in balancing how we protect our communities from the coronavirus while avoiding a full shut down of Florida’s economy, which could have done irreparable harm to our businesses and state budget. We should also be thankful that he had the courage to return over $1 billion to the state’s General Fund through vetoes. The reality is you don’t get a lot of fanfare for telling people ‘no,’ but his strength is part of the reason we’ve kept Florida’s economy afloat. Even in the midst of a pandemic, we’re seeing folks continue to flock to Florida. Governor Cuomo’s power point presentations clearly aren’t enough to keep people in his state. He’s resorted to begging people to come back to New York. Meanwhile in some parts of Florida we’re seeing real estate values double. People are voting with their feet on which state properly managed the crisis, and New York politicians by every measure failed their citizens.”
To support Florida’s recovery, the CFO outlined three steps DFS is taking, including bolstering transparency and leveraging CARES Act funding to mitigate the forecasted shortfalls, accelerating Florida’s economic rebound through pursuing liability protections for businesses, and right-sizing the Department of Financial Services.

 
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “First, our Department is facilitating more transparency in how federal CARES Act dollars are being spent. Governor DeSantis has moved with lightening speed and allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to communities to assist with issues like recovering from Covid, to helping with housing. We’ve been entrusted with taxpayer money and this is a great tool for determining how those dollars are being spent. I tell folks all the time, ‘You’ve got to hold people in Tallahassee accountable,’ and this tool is a great means of ensuring we’re all doing our part in getting Florida back on its feet. Additionally, our Treasury has leveraged the CARES Act money to generate $41 million in interest that can be used for any purpose. The federal guidance allows states keep the money with no strings attached, so every dollar we generate in interest is a dollar that can go to our schools, health care services and roads.”   
 
To view the CARES Act Transparency Tool, visit https://myfloridacfo.com/caresact
 
CFO Patronis continued, “Second, we’re going to continue beating the drum of business liability protections for employers and non-profits regarding COVID-19 litigation. I’ve participated in dozens of meetings with chambers of commerce across the state and business leaders expect us to get this done. What these businesses need now more than ever is a commitment from leaders in Tallahassee that we’re going to do our part in protecting them from bad lawsuits. There are a lot of good lawyers who care about their communities, but there are enough documented cases of bad ones that don’t mind turning their businesses into sue-and-settle factories for the sole goal of enriching themselves on the backs of hard-working Floridians. We can’t let that happen and in the upcoming regular session we’ll fix it.

“Third, DFS is doing our part to protect the budget. Since the pandemic, businesses across Florida have had to make tough decisions and it wouldn’t be fair to taxpayers if government continued in a ‘business-as-usual’ mindset. It’s in tough times that we must work hard to identify efficiencies, streamline operations and do more with less, while continuing to provide important services our citizens rely on. Since the coronavirus hit the U.S., we’ve maintained a limited hiring freeze and travel freeze and we’ll keep these orders in place for the foreseeable future. Moreover, in the current budget cycle, DFS contributed $7 million from the Insurance Regulatory Trust Fund to general revenue – and we’re committed to not making budget asks that put our agency’s budget above pre-Covid levels. This is not the time for agencies to make a cash grab, and we want to do our part in keeping critical services afloat.”
 
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About CFO Jimmy Patronis 
Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis is a statewide elected official and a member of Florida’s Cabinet who oversees the Department of Financial Services. CFO Patronis works each day to fight insurance fraud, support Florida’s firefighters, and ensure the state’s finances are stable to support economic growth in the state. Follow the activities of the Department on Facebook (FLDFS) and Twitter (@FLDFS).