Evening rundown: state debt down $800 million, Florida cabinet shores up water restoration funds, and more

by | Dec 19, 2023



State of Florida issues 2023 debt report

Florida’s 2023 Debt Report, published on Tuesday, shows a total $16.3 billion debt level, a $800 million decrease from the prior fiscal year, and maintaining the state’s debt service to revenue ratio at a level below 6 percent as established by legislative policy guidelines. The report contends that the ratio remained below the target due to limited debt issuance and revenue growth.

Approximately $1.9 billion of net tax-supported debt is projected to be issued over the next ten years, primarily for financing transportation projects. Earlier this year, state officials made an early paydown of $400 million towards active debt through the payoff of bonds before maturity, avoiding accruing interest costs.

“By living within our means, Florida has decreased state debt by $4.3 billion since 2019, while DC has increased federal debt by $9.5 trillion during that same time period,” said Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. “Florida’s debt burden per person is nearly 135 times less than the federal debt burden.”

Water quality conservation

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday announced the allocation of $210 million for 27 projects to improve the state’s water quality. The projects, ranging from septic-to-sewer conversions to wastewater treatment upgrades, intend to reduce harmful nutrients in waterways and combat algal blooms.

The funding is part of a larger environmental protection effort, including a $1.1 billion proposal in the upcoming state budget for water resource projects.

“The state of Florida continues to provide communities with the means to tackle water quality improvement projects, with the goal of safeguarding and restoring our natural and water resources,” said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton.

Cabinet agrees to 2024 schedule

DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet on Tuesday morning agreed to a reduced meeting schedule for next year, planning just four meetings.

The Cabinet, comprising Attorney General Ashley Moody, Patronis, and Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, will convene on March 26, June 11, September 24, and December 17.

Washington raises concerns over Florida Medicaid disenrollements

United States Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra expressed concern over the large number of children removed from Florida’s Medicaid program.

In the letter, addressed to DeSantis and eight other governors, Becerra instructed the leaders to work with federal resources to ensure residents of their respective states are covered under health insurance policies.

“I urge you to ensure that no eligible child in your state loses their health insurance due to ‘red tape’ or other bureaucratic barriers during the Medicaid enrollment process,” said Becerra.

In October, a coalition of 50 organizations called for an immediate pause in Florida’s Medicaid redetermination process, citing concerns over its impact on the health of children in Florida. The groups asserted that the current redetermination process is plagued by procedural errors, long call center wait times, and a lack of adequate staffing at the Department of Children and Families (DCF), contending that the issues have led to an erroneous loss of health insurance coverage for many individuals.

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