It's About The People, Not Politics
In a period of one month in March of 2021, more than 11,300 Floridians from across the political spectrum spent more than 1,300 hours weighing in with their spending priorities for the state budget and how we should pay for them. The results demonstrate an uncomfortable contrast between policymakers and their constituents when it comes to how the state’s tax dollars are being allocated after an unprecedented public health and economic crisis.
The People’s Budget Florida represents a new approach to giving everyday people a voice in one of the most important policy decisions we entrust to our elected officials: how to allocate our public tax dollars. We believe the state budget and local budget offers a unique perspective for residents to look pragmatically at the decisions that impact their quality of life.
If one wants to understand the true priorities of any institution or organization, you can simply follow the money to get an accurate sense of what the real priorities are. This is why budgets can be viewed as policy without rhetoric—an unfiltered look through the spin and partisanship that dominates much of our current political discussion.
Our diverse coalition has come together to address the lack of public awareness and engagement around this all-important set of decisions that will determine our vision forward as a state and as a people. The budget funds our schools, our hospitals, roads, prisons, clean water supply and so much more. There really isn’t any area of public policy that is not impacted by the budget.
Yet still, these decisions are so often presented as too complex and technically sophisticated for us to understand. We reject this idea and believe that residents are the only experts in what their communities need. Even the most dedicated elected leaders cannot claim to accurately understand the needs of millions of people on every single issue.
With this in mind, we are working to expand democracy with new voices and issues driven directly by residents themselves. We have brought together community organizers, newly elected state representatives working to change the status quo, experienced policy experts, small business owners and thousands of residents from all backgrounds to ask the question, “what if residents could decide the state budget?”
Our answer: The People’s Budget Challenge. In the past month, our allies in the legislature have fought for public access to critical information about corporate tax giveaways and loopholes so that residents can start to follow the money and see what the priorities really are in our state. At the same time we have collected responses from more than 11,000 registered voters from all backgrounds about their vision for the budget.
What we have seen is a remarkable movement of everyday people taking time out of the day to offer their ideas, think critically about their priorities and make decisions about how we should invest in our communities. The outpouring of responses from the People’s Budget Challenge should make clear that tens of thousands of residents want an expanded role in the budget process. It also shows us that working families are more than capable of making the difficult decisions that impact their lives if given the tools, information and voice needed to do so.