MIAMI — Wall Street and finance industry donors have already chosen their candidate for president in 2024, and it’s not Donald Trump. It’s Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
It’s easy to see why they would choose DeSantis, as he has turned the Sunshine State into a piggy bank for corporations and the wealthy. The Republican-led legislature regularly uses Floridians’ tax dollars to effectively steal from the poor to benefit their wealthy corporate donors.
In May 2020, as Florida’s economy tumbled due to COVID-19 and millions of Floridians were struggling with a broken state unemployment system, DeSantis and his Republican cronies went ahead with a $543 million tax refund for corporations and are on track to give away another $624 million to a secret list of some of the most profitable businesses in the state. In 2021, he approved a $1 billion in new tax collections from consumers, while leaving corporate tax evasion tactics untouched.
In addition to subsidizing the rich through the tax dollars of working families, it is everyday Floridians who overwhelmingly carry the tax burden in Florida. The Florida Policy Institute has determined that the lowest-income Floridians pay five and a half times as much in taxes as a share of their household income than the state’s wealthiest residents. A 2018 research study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), showed Florida’s tax system is among the “Terrible Ten” most inequitable in the nation, ranking it an abysmal 48th among all states due to its heavy reliance on sales and other consumption taxes that account for more than half of all revenue and impact lower income families who spend a greater share of their income purchasing goods they need.
It’s worth noting that Floridians actually passed a corporate income tax via the ballot in the early 1970s. It was a campaign promise of Democratic Gov. Reubin Askew who stood up against organized opposition from the business lobby. Unfortunately, two decades of corrupt Republican control of state government has resulted in Florida becoming one of the easiest states in which to avoid corporate income taxes in the nation, with 99 percent of companies paying no corporate income tax due to loopholes that are easily exploited. And even with barely any of them paying it, the largest corporations in the state are lobbying to permanently cut Florida’s corporate income tax rate.
A prime example of the absurd corporate grift that is being allowed by DeSantis’ Republican colleagues in Congress is their $31.6 million tax break for what is commonly referred to as the “three martini lunch.” It consists of corporate big wigs deducting their long, leisurely lunches on tax returns as a business expense—an insult to the average person who gets up every day to put in an honest day’s work. We can thank advocates for the working class and the Democrats for stopping the Florida Legislature from adopting this Trump tax break.
Is it any wonder that people like Thomas Peterffy, the billionaire chairman of Interactive Brokers who has given $250,000 to the Governor’s political action committee, call DeSantis “my favorite man,” while Citadel’s billionaire owner Ken Griffin is one of his top donors?
Ron DeSantis has done nothing to fix Florida’s upside-down tax policies, and he’s done nothing to help reduce the cost of living, lower rents, and address property insurance and the housing affordability crisis in Florida, fix its broken unemployment system, or reduce child care costs. Instead, DeSantis is focusing on his goal of raising $150 million for his 2022 gubernatorial reelection campaign while headlining fundraising events with wealthy donors in states like Nebraska and New Jersey.
“Wall Street” Ron is no champion for working people. He is an Ivy Leaguer who is pretending to be a populist while raising millions from hedge fund billionaires, private equity bankers, investment managers, and finance industry donors, giving millions in corporate giveaways from our tax dollars to wealthy donors in return. This is a man who, while focusing on his own ambition, consistently sells out working-class Floridians to some of the greediest people in the country.
Thomas Kennedy is a Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. Twitter: @tomaskenn