Florida’s Republican leaders announced their policy goals last month for the upcoming legislative session. Now Democrats in the Florida House have released their own agenda, conceding that Republicans outnumber them by about two-to-one.
Democrats plan to showcase what they say Republicans haven't done in the 18 years they’ve been in charge.
After years of deficits, lawmakers have an extra $1.2 billion in the next state budget. Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, says the money should go to critical needs that are lagging, like per-student funding and children’s services.
“The leadership on the other side talks about jobs," Pafford said. "We’ve got a list of upwards [of] 40,000 to 50,000 people trying to get their kid in early learning so they can get to a job.”
Pafford, who's in line to become House Democratic Leader in November, says Republicans have been waging “class warfare” on average Floridians for years.
“We’ve seen a commitment by leadership to walk on the backs of Floridians, average Floridians, to gain power and leadership and to make decisions that historically have benefited corporations in the state,” Pafford said.
House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston wants an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
“We don’t think that people want to see individual Floridians work 40 hours a week and be still living in poverty," Thurston said. "And then for us to have a legislature that votes against them being paid a living wage and at the same time will refuse to hear and allow us to draw down monies to give them healthcare.”
Thurston says his top legislative priority is to expand healthcare using $51 billion in available federal funding that Florida leaders rejected last year.