Governor Ron DeSantis has been out and about promoting the benefits of the new state budget, but not everyone has reaped the benefits.

The 2024-25 budget, which the governor signed in early June, cut spending by $950 million for a total of $116 billion.

Loss for the arts

DeSantis immediately drew criticism for cutting $32 million from arts spending, putting hundreds of programs across the state in shambles.

City Theater, a Miami-based nonprofit founded in 1996, is feeling the brunt of this year’s budget cuts.

“We’re known primarily for our short play format,” said Director Gladys Ramirez, who explained that City Theater has an annual summer “short play” program at the Arsht Center.

This year, the program cannot count on about 10% of its budget, which amounts to $50,000.

“Some people, like the Stadstheater, will be forced to cut programming, staff hours, or entire positions, and to look at how we can recover not only from such a major cut, but also from such a last-minute cut,” said Ramirez, pointing to the domino effects these cuts will have on artists and the companies that support them.

“There are a lot of people who are affected by this, even outside of the immediate arts community,” Ramirez added.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis outlined why he vetoed $32 million in arts and culture funding when he signed the state budget earlier this month.

The Coral Gables Art Cinema will be short more than $100,000 this year. About $150,000 has suddenly disappeared from the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra’s budget. The Miami New Drama also has an unexpected $150,000 hole in its budget.

“What baffles me is that Florida is trying to attract business from New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, and what message are we sending when we defund our cultural organizations?” said Michel Hausmann, artistic director and co-founder of Miami New Drama in Miami Beach. “Are you going to attract people to a state where arts and culture are not valued? They are the lifeblood of a city.”

Leaders of arts organizations across the state say it’s the first time they can remember a Florida governor cutting off all funding for arts and culture. And it’s happening even as arts organizations that survived the closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic are still recovering, facing lower attendance and revenue.

“We are reaching out to the community to help cover some of the budget gap and are exploring other private sector financing opportunities,” said Brenda Moe, executive director of Coral Gables Art Cinema. “We have to be creative to fill this gap.”

The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra is cutting back on spending, looking for ways to increase revenue and hoping local and municipal authorities will fill some of the gap, said Karina Bharne, the symphony’s executive director.

Government subsidies provided 10% of the Coral Gables Art Cinema’s budget, more than 3% of the Miami New Drama’s budget, and about 2% of the Orlando Philharmonic’s budget.

When asked at a news conference Thursday why he vetoed arts funding in the state’s $116.5 billion budget, DeSantis said some of the money was earmarked for programming that many taxpayers would find offensive because of its sexual content or for other reasons.

“When I see money being spent that way, I have to be the one to stand up for the taxpayer and say, ‘You know, that’s an inappropriate use of taxpayer money,'” DeSantis said. “I think the Legislature needs to reevaluate how that’s being done.”

The Winners: Everglades, Education and More

But the governor’s budget also has many winners.

As examples, the Everglades Trust cited more than $740 million for Everglades restoration, the Florida Health Care Association pointed to an 8 percent increase in Medicaid funding for nursing homes, and the Florida Mosquito Control Association cited a $1 million increase in funding to combat “the world’s deadliest animal.”

The budget includes a nearly $1.8 billion increase to the Florida Education Finance Program, the primary source of funding for public schools. Total funding for grades K-12 is more than $28.4 billion.

The total funding for schools includes a $20 million increase for mental health care and a $40 million boost for school safety.

DeSantis also approved a $200 million increase to help raise teacher salaries. Combined with previous increases, DeSantis said the budget includes $1.25 billion for teacher salaries.

“This budget will include $1.25 billion that can only be used to raise teacher salaries. No money to unions, no money to bureaucracy, just for teacher pay raises. And that’s more than the state of Florida has ever done,” DeSantis said.

But the Florida Education Association teachers union said the money had to be spread among about 200,000 teachers and it wouldn’t be enough to make a difference.

“This $200 million amounts to a pay raise of about $125 per month for every teacher, and is nowhere near the $15,000 annual raise needed to match the national average for teacher salaries,” union president Andrew Spar said in a statement. “The only thing this budget guarantees is that Florida teachers will remain at the bottom of the list for average wages.”

“Governments should strive to do more with less,” DeSantis wrote. “It can be done, and my action today reinforces that lesson for the nation.”

The budget includes $14.5 billion for the state transportation program and $232 million to fund cancer research, including $127.5 million for the Casey DeSantis Cancer Research Program.

The governor claims his budget will reduce state spending and leave the state treasury with a $17 billion surplus.