Florida’s House and Senate both passed their iterations of the state budget this week, amounting to $105.3 and $108.6 billion in spending, respectively. While both versions take priority in allocations to environmental initiatives and infrastructure, a dividing line presents itself in education, affordable housing, and pay raises.
A major point of contention presents itself in Rep. Randy Fine’s proposal to financially punish the 12 school districts that implemented masking policies for students. Though Gov. Ron DeSantis initially shot down the plan, he has now shifted gears and sides and now endorses a plan that would redirect $200 million to the districts that adhered to DeSantis’ executive order that prohibited school masking policies.
“Thanks to Speaker Sprowls, Representative Fine, and the House of Representatives for heeding my call to protect students and teachers from accountability measures affecting union-controlled politicians and bureaucrats who defied Florida law by force masking kids,” DeSantis said on Twitter. “Most students didn’t want to wear masks in the first place! Let’s also give parents recourse for harms imposed on their kids due to this defiance. They should get compensated for academic, social, and emotional problems caused by these policies.”
Rent prices across The Sunshine State have skyrocketed in recent months, and lawmakers are attempting to pass measures to mitigate rising costs.
The Senate is ready to allocate nearly $340 million toward policies that would drive prices down in Florida’s most populous cities. The House, however, is only willing to put up $268 million for similar measures. DeSantis, in his ‘Freedom First’ budget plan topped both chambers, seeking to spend $355.5 million in affordable housing acts.
$220.5 million of DeSantis’ $355.5 million would go to the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) Program provides that grants funds to local governments as an incentive to create partnerships that produce and preserve affordable homeownership and multifamily rental housing. The funds may be used for a variety of strategies such as home rehabilitation and emergency repairs, down payment and closing costs assistance, homeownership counseling, new construction and homelessness prevention.
Aspects of both approved budgets put resources toward raising the pay of some of Florida’s most important sectors, including law enforcement, correctional officers, state firefighters, and juvenile justice officers.
The House seeks a 5.38% increase for the state workforce, citing a need for a bump amid rising inflation. Members of the Senate, though, target a minimum-wage increase to assure that all state workers earn at least $15 per hour. The measure has been backed by Senate President Wilton Simpson.
“We are also investing $1 billion to ensure the Floridians who either work for the state or contract with the state, and spend each day educating, protecting, and caring for others in our communities earn at least $15 per hour,” said Simpson. “I am thrilled to see the Senate lead the charge to implement a $15 per hour wage for those who serve the public, from our cafeteria workers to those who care for our elderly, well in advance of the constitutional deadline. ”
In the coming days, Senators will begin a budget conference with their House colleagues to reconcile differences between the budgets proposed by each chamber.