Senate Bill 2500, the General Appropriations Act, a balanced state budget for the upcoming fiscal year, was finalized this morning, beginning the constitutionally required 72-hour cooling off period before a vote on Friday, May 5. Appropriations Committee Chair, Senator Doug Broxson (R-Pensacola) and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples), along with budget committee chairs responsible for the various budget silos offered the following statements highlighting several components of the budget.
“We continue to be in a very unique situation with our budget. We are seeing increases in revenue and record low unemployment, yet we know Floridians are suffering greatly from inflation and nationally our economy is projected to face some challenges.
“With increases in revenue, we have the amazing opportunity to make key generational investments in many areas of our infrastructure, from workforce housing, to transportation, to clean water, to our iconic Wildlife Corridor. While this is positive, we cannot ignore the economic challenges already impacting Florida families and those clearly on the horizon nationally. Rather than spending all we have, this budget holds the line, setting aside historic reserves and providing for tremendous tax relief opportunities that will reduce the cost of living for Florida families in a meaningful way.”
“We also make critical investments to further ongoing relief and recovery efforts as we work to help Southwest Florida and other impacted communities rebuild. Coupled with the significant legislation put forward by Senator Martin, Leader Albritton, and our Select Committee on Resiliency, this budget will help our state will be even more prepared for future hurricanes and other significant weather events that come with living on our beautiful peninsula.”
“Our budget is a fiscally responsible, balanced approach to making key investments in our environmental, housing, and transportation infrastructure and our clean water resources, while maintaining a historic rainy day fund that ensures we remain prepared to tackle any future challenges that may face our state. We are also raising per student funding to an unprecedented level as we work to provide Florida parents with a historic opportunity to direct funding for their children’s education.
“We have seen the significant impacts of inflation as households draw down from their savings, increase use of credit, and change their spending habits. In this budget we go to great lengths to keep Florida affordable for growing families, setting aside funding for historic tax relief opportunities that create savings on a variety of everyday goods. For our state employees, we are including an across the board raise, as well as targeted funding agencies can use for merit raises, keeping our best talent serving our state.
“Our budget also accounts for the significant investment in workforce housing already passed in the Live Local Act, as we work to increase opportunities for our workers to find attainable housing close to the communities they serve.”
Senator Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations:
“With this budget, we are continuing our longstanding efforts to preserve Florida’s unique natural resources and making critical improvements to our environmental and clean water infrastructure. These investments benefit current and future generations of Floridians, while also safeguarding Florida’s economy as our pristine natural features continue to attract visitors from across the country and around the world.
“We are increasing the $200 million investment in the Wildlife Corridor, signed into law earlier this session, by making a historic investment in land acquisition at two ends of the corridor. This key, one-in-a-generation investment, along with our commitment to Everglades Restoration, is a legacy we can be proud to leave for future generations of Floridians and visitors to enjoy.
“On the governmental operations side of our committee, we are ensuring our agencies continue to run effectively and efficiently, ready to serve the people of our great state.”
Senator Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island), Chair of the Senate Committee on Civil and Criminal Justice Appropriations:
“Our budget makes key investments to address many needs identified by the Governor and the agencies in our silo, which are complemented by important across-the-board and targeted salary enhancements in the overall budget that will continue state efforts to address staffing, recruitment and retention issues in the Department of Corrections (DOC) and our Court System.
“We are funding a historic expansion of education and vocational programming in the DOC, with an emphasis on virtual education. This funding is intended to help address inmate educational deficits, prepare them for the workforce upon release, reduce recidivism, and reduce the problem of inmate idleness in our institutions. This is year one of a two-year planned expansion of these programs. We also set aside $1 million to support a phone call savings pilot program. This program awards inmates with a free 15-minute call each month if they remain incident-free the prior three months, which will give inmate families a break on costs and hopefully incentivize good behavior.”
Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville), Chair of the Senate Committee on Education Appropriations:
“This budget continues our strong support of education in Florida. We are increasing K-12 per student funding by nearly 5% with a student funding calculation that maintains important categoricals for mental health and school safety, while consolidating others to give districts more flexibility. We are providing an extra $252 million for teacher salary increases, bringing our total investment in raising teacher salaries to over $1 billion annually.
“House Bill 1, signed into law earlier this year, ensures the funds we dedicate to education follow the student. With this budget, we are keeping $350 million in reserve to hold districts harmless, in case more students then we expect enroll in the program. This level of funding ensures traditional, neighborhood public schools that have been – and will continue to be – the backbone of our K-12 education system will see a historic level of per student funding. At the same time, school choice will become a reality for every child in every family across our great state as parents have the chance to guide how and where the funding for their children’s education is spent.
“In higher education, we maintain the low cost of tuition and do not authorize any tuition increases at Florida colleges and universities. We allow each university to spend tuition and fee revenue collected without having to seek legislative authorization to increase spending authority. This change does not allow for tuition increases, but gives universities additional flexibility as their enrollment increases. We also appropriate funds to support performance and excellence initiatives in our state universities. Finally, we make important investments in workforce training, including accounting for the $100 investment in SB 240 by Senator Hutson, which expands work-based opportunities for students in grades 6-12.”
Senator Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart), Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services Appropriations:
“Our proposed budget makes important investments in health care for the most vulnerable in our state, particularly for children and elders. We increase rates for hospitals that serve critically ill children and add slots to allow more Floridians with disabilities to receive care at home.
We provide funds to increase the quality of our nursing homes, and to increase the personal needs allowance for vulnerable elders, veterans, and persons with disabilities who reside in nursing homes from $130 per month to $160 per month. This allows our mothers and fathers, our grandparents and elders who built Florida to keep just a little more of their own money, a basic decency that allows them to maintain their dignity.
“To continue efforts to address physician shortages across the state, we make significant investments in Graduate Medical Education slots. We make significant investments in rapid re-housing and homelessness prevention and increase funding for mental health and substance abuse services. We also appropriate Opioid Settlement Trust Fund dollars to establish services and remedies to address the Opioid crisis and add funds for school health services.”
Senator Ed Hooper (R-Clearwater), Chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development
“Our transportation infrastructure is the foundation for Florida’s vibrant, diverse economy. This budget makes historic, generational infrastructure investments, including $4 billion for the Governor’s Moving Florida Forward Initiative that will help keep our economy strong and growing, creating good paying jobs in communities across the state.
“We also continue our efforts to help communities impacted by recent hurricanes through the creation of a Hurricane Ian and Nicole Grant Recovery Program that will assist local governments with infrastructure repair and replacement including road and sewer and water facilities. When it comes to hurricane damage, we are all in this together, and the funding we are including in this budget will help our communities continue to recover and rebuild.
We include $20 million to continue efforts to recruit law enforcement officers to our state, as well as funds to support those who enlist in our National Guard. These dedicated public servants help our fellow Floridians in some of our darkest hours, and I’m glad we have the funds to show our strong support for their efforts.”
Originally published at https://www.flsenate.gov/Media/PressReleases/Show/4452