Gov. DeSantis makes stop in Ocala

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Posted February 8, 2023 | staff report

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced an estimated $2 billion Family-Focused Tax Relief proposal while taking a swing at several policies of the Biden administration in Washington at a press conference in Ocala Wednesday morning.

“The cost of living has gone through the roof,’’ he said. “We need to give taxpayers relief. Inflation is not going down, it’s just not increasing as much.”

DeSantis said “spending binges” by the federal government and federal administration polices dampening oil business have contributed to inflation. He said President Joe Biden had said the U.S. will need oil only “for 10 more years.”

The event was held at MVB Appliance & Mattress, co-owned by Mike and Nick Barbier.

Mike Barbier said his business was chosen at “random.” Some appliances are among the products in the tax relief proposals.

Barbier said it was “awesome” hosting the governor and about 150 guests.

DeSantis touted Florida’s low state debt, “massive surplus” and a “rainy day fund,” which he said can allow taxpayer savings. He said last year the state had a historically high surplus of $22 billion out of a $109 billion budget.

“We have to take some of that money and return it to the taxpayers,” DeSantis said.

He said the tax relief would help taxpayers–especially families–in light of current inflation, which he claimed was caused by “massive federal spending” and federal administration policies that he said hamper domestic energy production.

The 16 tax relief proposals include the current Toll Relief Program for frequent commuters and possible expansion of the Back-to-School exemption and Freedom Summer outdoor goods exemptions.

The proposals include permanent exemptions on baby-related items including diapers, wet wipes and strollers and over-the-counter pet medication and a one-year exemption on household items such as toilet tissue under $25 and children’s toys and books.

The top tax relief amount involved in the proposal is the Toll Relief Program, which began on Jan. 1 and could provide relief to Florida drivers by rebate up to an estimated $500 million. The lowest tax relief estimate is an estimated $4 million for a proposed “permanent” exemption on cribs and strollers.

Also included in the proposal is permanent “increased savings” for small businesses making electronic filings.

DeSantis was joined on the stage by Kathleen Passidomo, president of the Florida Senate; Florida Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Renner.

Renner said the tax relief was “your money going back to you” and the proposal can make Florida “the number one pro-family state.”

Local resident Jason Halstead, executive director of Brother’s Keeper, a community outreach of Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in Ocala, also spoke at the event.

Brother’s Keeper assists thousands of needy people annually with a Soup Kitchen, emergency transportation, help with prescriptions, clothing and housing. Halstead said the group’s outreach work in the community doubled between 2021 and 2022.

He said the tax saving would be a help to families spending on needs like diapers.

Halstead was joined by his wife, Layna, and their children, Thaddeus, 11, Cecilia, 10, Mary Clare, 8, and twins, Luke and Shep, 5.

A local mother in the audience remarked that when parents are less financially stressed, “They are more engaged.”

The audience included a number of people with infants and small children including Marion County Sheriff’s Office Chaplin Vernon Phillips and Gunnar, 6 months, and Justin Albright and Violet, 6 months.

Local officials at the event included Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods and Ocala Police Department Chief Mike Balken.

DeSantis announced a proposal for a permanent tax exemption on gas appliances, while taking a swipe at the federal administration.

“They are trying to take away your gas stove…They are trying to control the amount of energy you use… (and) that doesn’t fly in Florida,” he said.

Gas stoves have become a political issue after Richard Trumka, Jr., a commissioner on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety  Commission commented about possible restrictions on the appliances because of health concerns. Trumka has repeatedly said the agency “isn’t coming for anyone’s gas stoves.”

DeSantis used the press conference to comment on voter fraud, illegal immigration and he fielded questions on various subjects.

“(We’ll) send illegal immigrants to more places…like Martha’s Vineyard,” he said, referencing a  September event when his administration arranged for 50 migrants to be flown without their knowledge to the Massachusetts resort at Florida taxpayers’ expense. DeSantis is facing a federal class-action lawsuit over the action.

DeSantis also touted a “50-year-low” crime rate in Florida and he stated 425,000 new jobs have been created as Florida leads the country in new business formation.

DeSantis also addressed the ongoing Walt Disney World and Reedy Creek Improvement District controversy. The district was created in the late 1960s as a way for the vacation giant to operate its burgeoning entertainment empire.

Questions remain, including how the municipalities around Disney will be impacted and Reedy Creek’s $1 billion in debt will be resolved.

“(We) will put this issue to bed” and Disney will no longer be self-governing,’’ DeSantis stated. “(WDW) will pay their fair share of taxes.’’


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