TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Florida GOP lawmakers are about to find out whether Gov. Ron DeSantis will punish them for endorsing former President Donald Trump.

More than a dozen legislators are now waiting to see if DeSantis cuts their favored hometown projects from the annual budget after they formally backed Trump over the governor during the deeply bitter GOP presidential primary.

By choosing Trump, lawmakers went up against one of the most powerful governors in Florida history who has retaliated against his perceived enemies and strong-armed his priorities through the Legislature, including going up against Walt Disney World and Democratic state attorneys and pushing lawmakers to pass a congressional map his staff drew.

“There’s always that concern,” about a veto, acknowledged Trump endorser GOP Rep. Paula Stark of Kissimmee, whose budget priorities included funding for lake cleanups and semiconductors.

“I hope the concern is invalid,” she added. “I would like to believe that the governor is going to do the best thing for the citizens of our state no matter what.”

The budget lawmakers passed is roughly $3 billion higher than what DeSantis requested, and the governor, who can veto individual parts, already said there’d be “a little trimming to be done” to be fiscally responsible.

His office didn’t reply to questions about how he would decide which parts of the budget he’d target or respond to lawmakers’ concerns about political motives.

The vast majority of Republican state lawmakers endorsed DeSantis even before he launched his presidential bid. They not only rubber stamped a slew of conservative priorities the governor ran on during the election but also helped him fundraise. Many flew themselves to Iowa in January to trudge through snow in negative 20 degree temperatures to knock on doors on his behalf.

But many of the 14 lawmakers who endorsed Trump — or flipped in his favor when it became clear DeSantis would lose the Iowa caucuses — worry their top priorities are now potentially at stake. One text viewed by POLITICO showed several of the members were on a text chain together called “Superheroes.”

GOP Rep. Juan Carlos Porras of Miami admitted he’d had “contentious” moments leading up to his Trump endorsement, when other Republicans tried to convince him to sign a pledge card for DeSantis. But he said he backed Trump because it was clear when he campaigned in 2022 that Trump would be his constituents’ choice.

“I chose a side very early on, very much knowing the risks, very much knowing what could have happened,” he said.

Porras said this session he helped secure state funding for pro bono clinics through the Cuban American Bar Association and for the University of Miami Stroke Center.

“If the governor wants to play politics based on his losing presidential race and hurt a lot of our residents, I don’t think that’s the way you come back and make alliances,” he said.

Not all state lawmakers who backed Trump are concerned that DeSantis will cut their budget requests. GOP state Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez said she endorsed Trump because “he’s the right person for this time” and has known the former president for more than a decade as a councilmember in Doral, but added she’d been “respectful” and “supportive” of DeSantis as governor. Rodriguez represents the Keys and prioritized environmental funding in the budget.

“I’m not too worried about it because his constituents are my constituents. So if he’s going to hurt anyone, he’s going to hurt his own constituents. He’s not really hurting me, per se,” she said. “There’s always that thought like, ‘Oh, will it hurt? Will he go after people who supported his opponent?’ I’m not worried about it. If that’s the approach he wants to take, that’s his decision.”

Lawmakers’ fears are steeped in past experience. In 2022, DeSantis made then-Senate President Wilton Simpson stand on stage next to him as he cut out a record $3.1 billion from the budget, including a $50 road-widening project in Simpson’s district. Simpson at the time publicly insisted it was nothing personal. But when DeSantis similarly cut Simpson’s priorities after he became agriculture commissioner, in 2023, Simpson said there was “no conceivable reason to target agriculture in a year when we have billions of dollars in reserves.”

GOP Sen. Joe Gruters of Sarasota, a longtime Trump ally, told POLITICO he’s still convinced DeSantis targeted him with millions of dollars in vetoes last year for backing the former president. The governor’s office called the accusation “absurd” at the time, attributing DeSantis’ budget vetoes to “conservative governance and fiscal responsibility” rather than politics.

Asked whether he had similar fears this year, Gruters said he hoped his small number of projects would get approved.

“I am hoping that all that’s in the past and that Sarasota will come out OK,” he said.

One lawmaker who flipped his endorsement from DeSantis to Trump is GOP Rep. Randy Fine of Palm Bay, who wrote a scathing piece in the Washington Times accusing the governor of not doing enough to fight antisemitism in Florida. The comments came soon after Hamas’ attack on Israel.

Fine, the only Jewish Republican in the Florida Legislature, had priorities this session that included a bill defining antisemitism, providing recurrent funding to secure Jewish day schools and reducing the wait list for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to get care at home.

Fine said the bills didn’t “poke the bear” and, on the budget end of things this year, he had one ask: $20 million to go toward security for Jewish day schools. DeSantis is almost sure to authorize the funding given his pro-Israel stance and his other policies as governor, including securing flights from Israel after the Hamas attack to help return Americans to the U.S.

Fine said DeSantis vetoed roughly 25 percent of his projects last year, before he ever flipped, insisting it was evidence that the governor “takes a hard look at everything” and that the accusation that DeSantis vetoes based on retribution was an “interpretation.”

“I don’t think everyone who did endorse him is not going to get any vetoes,” he said.

DeSantis’ potential involvement in state lawmakers’ future may not end with the budget.

Lawmakers are facing an election in November and the governor could try to insert himself into state races. Fine, for instance, is running for state Senate, and he recently got Trump’s endorsement.

“My advice to [DeSantis] would be: the election is over,” Fine said. “Let’s make friends and let’s move forward. I don’t think there’s any point in looking back.”

2024 © Network Today. All Rights Reserved.