Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed off on Florida’s record-setting $109.9 billion budget that includes provisions for state worker pay raises and a gas tax break, among others.
The budget totals $109.9 billion and includes a record $1.24 billion in tax relief for Floridians. Florida will have historic reserves at the end of 2021-2022 fiscal year, totaling more than $20 billion while reserves for the 2022-2023 fiscal year estimate to begin the year at more than $16 billion.
Florida’s budget reflects record levels of reserves while investing in education, infrastructure, and the state’s police forces.
To combat what he referred to as unnecessary spending, DeSantis vetoed $3.1 billion in spending, setting a new state record by a wide margin and slashing the original budget of $112 billion to its current form.
Key vetoes include $350 million in grants for local governments and non-state entities, $645 million for a new prison complex, and $75 million for a proposed University of South Florida Environmental & Oceanographic Sciences Research & Teaching Facility
“Governor DeSantis is focused on the issues that really matter to families, like making sure their children learn in school, are not indoctrinated, and have the ability to succeed once they graduate, and with the Freedom First Budget, he is once again putting students first,” said Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. “Under the Governor’s leadership, we will remain committed to ensuring every student receives the best education available in a school that cares about them and invests in their success.”
The budget also takes aim at Florida’s struggling health care sector, including a 7.8 percent increase in Medicaid reimbursement for nursing centers, amounting to an additional $293 million in funding–approximately $419,000 per care center.
The funding increase will allow nursing centers to increase their employee pay, with all staff wages moving to a $15 per hour minimum by October 2022. The budget will also help address the nursing shortage through an allocation of $120 million dedicated to expanding education and training opportunities meant to grow the nursing profession.
“We want to thank Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature, including Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, for giving Florida the ability to grow the health care workforce, which will, in turn, support a stable and sustainable long term care system,” said FHCA Chief Executive Officer Emmett Reed. “This budget provides our care centers the resources necessary to compete in this tight labor market and attract the workers needed to ensure Florida remains a leader in delivering high-quality care.”
The budget also invests more than $3.6 billion in Florida’s environment and water quality to ensure the balance of environmental protection , including more than $1.2 billion for Everglades restoration and protecting itss water resources.
This brings the four-year total of investment into Everglades conservation to more than $3.3 billion, surpassing the goal of $2.5 billion and more than doubling the investment made in the previous four years.
“The fiscal year 2022-23 environmental budget continues the Governor’s commitment with historic levels of support for Everglades restoration, water quality protections, vital land acquisitions, and resiliency of inland and coastal communities,” said Department of Environmental Protections Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “With this funding, DEP and its partners will be able to continue our work to expedite Everglades restoration, implement clean water projects to reduce nutrients in our waterways, assist communities with water supply projects, make our communities more resilient; and acquire vital lands essential to the tourism that drives Florida’s economy and protection of our critical water resources.”
This is a developing story.