$114 billion budget recommendation sees boost in education spending

by | Dec 5, 2023



  • Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday presented a $114.4 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2024-2025 while projecting a $16.3 billion surplus. 
  • $27.8 billion is proposed for K-12 education, including boosts to teacher salaries, early childhood education, Safe Schools Initiatives, and civics programs.
  • DeSantis also recommended reducing state government size by eliminating over 1,000 jobs and allocating funds for accelerating state debt repayment.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his $114.4 billion state budget recommendation for Fiscal Year 2024-2025, marking a slight decrease from the year prior, alongside a projected $16.3 billion surplus.

Tax relief is a major component of the governor’s “Florida’s Future” budget, with more than $1.1 billion set aside. Specific measures include $431 million for reducing homeowners insurance costs and six sales tax holidays estimated to curb approximately $475 million in consumer spending. The recommendation rollout also called for $170 million in small business tax cuts and permanent tax exemption for over-the-counter pet medications.

The recommendations also propose $27.8 billion for K-12 schools, a record high, including $1.25 billion for teacher salary increases. DeSantis’ budget further calls for $1.6 billion in early childhood education funding, including $450 million for voluntary pre-kindergarten programs; $290 million for the Safe Schools Initiatives; and $52.8 million to support civics engagement programs.

“Even though we’re cutting taxes, even though we’re able to reduce overall spending and pay down debt, we are still able to do a historic $27.8 billion in funding for the K-12 public school system,” quipped DeSantis.

For higher education, DeSantis’ Budget recommends $3.7 billion for the State University System, $1.7 billion for the Florida College System, $150 million for recruitment and retention of faculty members, and $152 million for the state’s HBCU institutions, including $10 million for HBCU facility hardening to prevent acts of violence.

Reductions in state government positions were targeted, with DeSantis calling for the elimination of more than 1,000 jobs, while asking legislators to allocate $455 million towards the Accelerated Debt Repayment Program, to reduce the state’s debt.

“We’re going to continue to be aggressive and repaying debt,” remarked the governor. “We’re also going to be reducing the size of government by eliminating over 1000 positions throughout the state government, and that’s going to help us realign resources to focus on efficiency.”

Workforce development is supported with $900 million, including $200 million for new Career & Technical Education (CTE) subjects and programs, and $20 million for expanding apprenticeships. Law enforcement, meanwhile, is bolstered with $20 million for recruitment bonuses, offering $5,000 per new law enforcement officer.

The budget also focuses on infrastructure, with $630 million dedicated to the Moving Florida Forward Initiative to address traffic congestion and $157 million for coastal resilience, alongside $50 million for beach nourishment.

“We have responsibilities in terms of things like transportation and infrastructure to make sure that people can get around in ways that work,” DeSantis said.

The budget recommendation also provides $1 million, pending approval, for use in any litigation relating to Florida State University’s omission from the College Football Playoffs last weekend, an issue taken up by lawmakers across both parties in Tallahassee.

“[FSU] earned a spot in the College Football Playoffs and they were excluded from that, and I think was something that’s been that is very, very controversial,” DeSantis said of the undefeated Seminoles. “Now, I don’t know what all goes into that decision-making. I know a lot of people have been disappointed. We’re setting aside a million dollars for any litigation expenses that may be calm as a result of this really, really poor decision.”

The governor’s recommendations drew early praise from third-party agencies, including Florida TaxWatch, which referred to the provisionary items as “good financial stewardship.”

“As the ‘eyes and ears’ of taxpayers for over four decades, Florida TaxWatch commends the governor for introducing such a fiscally conservative, yet robust proposal that provides a record $1.1 billion in tax relief and makes significant investments in infrastructure, education, and workforce development, while still increasing reserves and aggressively paying off state debt,” said Dominic M. Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.

Meanwhile, Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Lauren Book drew attention to the state’s rising cost of living and the governor’s repeated comparisons to other highly-populated states like Texas and California, though ultimately praised some components of the budget such as allocations to remedy the ongoing property insurance crisis.

“The Governor’s description of Florida as a dream is merely a delusion, with rising costs and no end in sight. We as elected leaders must continue to focus on solving problems and meeting the needs of the 22 million residents of Florida, instead of making partisan political comparisons to places like California or DC,” said Book. “While I have major concerns over many of the Governor’s stated priorities like cutting state jobs, slashing arts and culture funding, and spending on unnecessary litigation, I also see signs of hope in this budget suggestion on issues such as the ongoing insurance crisis — prioritizing everyday people instead of caving to the insurance industry.”

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