- Florida’s House and Senate leaders have agreed on a new state budget plan worth more than $116 billion, which is expected to be approved by lawmakers on Friday.
- The new budget includes a range of initiatives and spending proposals, such as Governor Ron DeSantis’s plans for $4 billion to accelerate highway projects and 5% raises for state employees.
- Other spending proposals in the new budget include efforts to combat rising sea levels, purchasing conservation easements, and a drone replacement program within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Setting the stage for an on-time end to the 2023 Legislative Session, negotiators in the Florida House and Senate put the finishing touches on the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year early Tuesday morning, starting the constitutionally-mandated 72-hour cooling-off period before the vote on Friday, May 5. The $116 billion budget focuses on key investments in housing, transportation, and environmental infrastructure while providing for historic state reserves and record tax relief to combat inflation.
Senate President Kathleen Passidomo noted that the budget aims to make historic investments in infrastructure while setting aside historic reserves and providing tax relief opportunities.
“We continue to be in a very unique situation with our budget. We are seeing increases in revenue and record low unemployment, yet we know Floridians are suffering greatly from inflation, and nationally our economy is projected to face some challenges,” Passidomo said in a prepared release. “We cannot ignore the economic challenges already impacting Florida families and those clearly on the horizon nationally. Rather than spending all we have, this budget holds the line, setting aside historic reserves and providing for tremendous tax relief opportunities that will reduce the cost of living for Florida families in a meaningful way.”
The Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, Doug Broxson called the budget a “fiscally responsible, balanced approach” that makes key investments while maintaining a historic rainy-day fund. The budget also includes an across-the-board raise for state employees and targeted funding for merit raises.
Florida House leaders did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Key investments in the budget include funding for workforce housing, the Live Local Act, which passed in the opening days of the session. The budget also includes money for environmental and clean water infrastructure, hurricane relief efforts, and an increase in per-student funding for education.
Senator Keith Perry, Chair of the Senate Committee on Education Appropriations, said the budget “continues our strong support of education in Florida.” The allocations include a nearly 5% increase in K-12 per-student funding and an additional $252 million for teacher salary increases. The budget also maintains the low cost of tuition for higher education while providing funds to support performance and excellence initiatives in state universities.
If passed on Friday by the full legislature and signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis, the budget will go into effect on July 1 more than $6 billion larger than the current year’s budget. However, under the Florida Constitution, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has line-item veto authority that allows him to eliminate specific budget allocations. In the past, DeSantis has vetoed hundreds of millions of dollars, including vetoes totalling more than $1 billion in 2020.
The current budget includes $4 billion for DeSantis to speed up highway projects. plus another $850 million for a planned statewide wildlife corridor.
“We are increasing the $200 million investment in the Wildlife Corridor, signed into law earlier this session, by making a historic investment in land acquisition at two ends of the corridor,” said Senator Jason Brodeur, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations. “This key, one-in-a-generation investment, along with our commitment to Everglades Restoration, is a legacy we can be proud to leave for future generations of Floridians and visitors to enjoy.
State employees are also tabbed to receive 5% raises with incentives to retain valuable workers, including highly controversial funding for the DROP program, which allows state employees to effectively double-dip the retirement system, drawing pension funds while still in the working the same job.
Lawmakers have also peppered the budget with home-district spending projects that include things like a $15 million crane replacement at the port in Jacksonville. A significant amount of money has been earmarked for hurricane relief, mental health programs, $3.8 million for DeSantis’s protective detail, funded through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Once the 72-hour review period ends, lawmakers can vote to approve the budget and adjourn on the last scheduled day of the 60-day session.