- The House and Senate budget committees have advanced proposed record spending plans for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, with differences to be settled in the coming weeks.
- Primarily, the proposed budgets differ on the funding for the expansion of Florida’s school-voucher programs. The Senate proposed funding the program at $2.2 billion, while the House projected the cost to be $209.6 million.
- Disparities between the two chambers will be settled in the coming weeks.
The House and Senate budget committees advanced proposed record spending plans on Tuesday for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, with key differences set to be settled in the coming weeks.
Among the numerous differences, the House has proposed spending $107.9 million to expand the size of the Florida State Guard, while introducing a proposal that would cut state funding from the tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida. The Senate wants to spend $80 million on Visit Florida, up $30 million from the current year and doesn’t propose increasing state guard funding.
The Senate proposal totals $113.7 billion, with the Appropriations Committee approving 200 amendments Tuesday that shifted money within the plan. Among other things, the Senate is proposing a 4.75 percent increase in funds per public-school student, a 3 percent across-the-board pay increase for state employees, and $350 million in “recovery” grants that would go to areas slammed by Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole.
With a 6 percent pay increase proposed for state employees, the House package stands at $113 billion, which House Appropriations Chairman Tom Leek called a “conservative spending plan.” The House proposal includes $12.4 billion in reserves, at least in part to serve as a hedge against future natural disasters and an economic downturn.
In the education part of the budget, the House and Senate are aligned in wanting to spend roughly $26.6 billion for the Florida Education Finance Program, the main funding formula for public schools. The total would represent a $2.1 billion increase over the current year.
The House and Senate differ in funding for a massive expansion of Florida’s school-voucher programs (HB 1), which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law on Monday.
The Senate proposal would fund the voucher system at $2.2 billion, covering existing voucher students and new voucher recipients. Senate Education Appropriations Chairman Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, said the voucher funding would represent an $802 million increase over the current year.
Meanwhile, the House has projected that the voucher plan would cost about $209.6 million. House PreK-12 Appropriations Chairwoman Josie Tomkow, R-Polk City, indicated the chambers are taking different approaches in the calculations.
Without knowing how many students will participate, both chambers set aside reserves to cover any potential voucher-system shortfall. The Senate set aside $350 million, while the House put aside $109.7 million.
The House and Senate are expected to vote on their proposed spending plans and budget-related bills next week. Both would exceed the $109.9 billion budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.