Governor Ron DeSantis released his 2022-23 fiscal year budget proposal on Thursday, totaling $99.7 billion, with total reserves exceeding $15 billion.
Entitled the ‘Freedom First Budget,’ it focuses largely on education, environmental resources, and law enforcement retention. The budget also includes a Fuel Tax Holiday that will go into effect on July 1st, 2022 in order to provide a reprieve from increased gas prices.
“In Florida, we have put Freedom First – protecting Floridians’ freedom to earn a living, to operate businesses, and to choose educational options tailored for their children,” said DeSantis. “Today, I am proud to announce my budget proposals that will build on our foundation of freedom by investing in priorities that matter to our residents. This budget puts Floridians and their freedoms first, keeps taxes low, and addresses key priorities – all while maintaining record budget reserves.”
For educational services, a round of $1,000 bonus checks for approximately 179,000 teachers and principals in Florida was proposed, as well as $600 million for teacher pay.
An increase in per-student funding to reach $8,000 per student will be coupled with an elimination of the Florida Standards Assessment and its replacement with progress monitoring.
DeSantis also committed to preventing any further cuts to the Bright Futures scholarship program.
“I am incredibly thankful for the bold commitment Governor DeSantis has made to make Florida the Education State,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “We must continue to act with urgency in seeking innovative ways to improve the quality of education we provide students. As Florida continues to be a national leader in education, these historic investments will undoubtedly help us focus on the individual needs of students to help them grow academically.”
The budget proposes more than $980 million toward Everglades restoration and protecting Florida’s water resources, bringing Florida’s four-year investment to $3 billion. Investments of $3 million to remove invasive Burmese pythons from the Everglades, and over $550 million to increase the resiliency of Florida’s coastal and inland communities are additionally present.
Earlier this week, DeSantis announced Florida’s first-ever flood resilience program that would allocate over $200 million of state dollars towards rising sea levels and flood-susceptible regions in the state.
The governor additionally estimated a further $1 billion in environmental spending over the coming years.
“I want to thank Governor DeSantis for his unwavering support for Florida’s natural resources and we are proud of the conservation successes we are achieving under his leadership,” said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director Eric Sutton. “Florida’s natural resources are abundant and we will continue to work hard to conserve and manage these great resources for future generations.”
$226.7 million is allocated to provide salary increases for those working in public safety – including 25% raises for all presently-serving state sworn law enforcement and 20 percent salary increases for entry-level state sworn law enforcement. The budget also includes $5.4 million to establish the Florida State Guard.
Democrats were quick to criticize the budget, seeking more funding for affordable housing projects and expanded healthcare.
“The state’s budget should prioritize the everyday challenges facing the people across our state and reflect a commitment to the important partnership between the state and federal government that is needed for Florida and Floridians to thrive,” said gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried. DeSantis’ budget proposal still needs to pass through the legislature, where contention of budget details is expected to pick up in the forthcoming January session.