TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Governor Ron DeSantis spoke at the State Capitol Thursday morning on the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, 2021-2022.
The Governor’s total recommendation for the Fiscal Year 2021-2022 "Florida Leads" budget is $96.6 billion, a $4.3 billion increase on the current budget.
The General Revenue portion is $35.8 billion while Florida’s total reserves are $6.6 billion, more than 6 percent of the total recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2021-2022.
DeSantis said that his proposed budget has about $1 billion in reductions over the current fiscal year.
“Our state has been tested many times before and has always passed with flying colors," DeSantis said. "Although our fight against COVID-19 has altered our economic landscape, Florida is on the road to recovery and will continue to lead.”
He said K-12 public school funding will total $22.8 billion. This amount would bring K-12 per-student funding to $8,019, exceeding the current year’s record funding by $233 per student.
The budget also allots for the continued support of the teacher salary program budgeted at $550 million. DeSantis said his goal is to continue raising the minimum K-12 teacher salary to $47,500 and allot for salary increases for eligible personnel.
The budget also includes $110 million for mental health programs in Florida’s schools, an increase of $10 million over current year funding.
The budget invests a total of $1.2 billion in state operating funding for Florida’s colleges and a total of $2.7 billion for Florida’s universities. There is also no tuition increase for colleges and universities.
DeSantis' proposed budget also includes $119 million for Florida’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities with $87.7 million going to Florida A&M University for operating funds.
The budget also provides a total of more than $405 million for Florida’s VPK program.
When DeSantis took office, he called for $2.5 billion to be invested in Everglades restoration and Florida’s water resources over four years.
The budget continues that commitment by allocating more than $625 million for these causes, which includes over $473 million for Everglades restoration, $50 million for Springs restoration, $145 million for targeted water quality improvements, $40 million for alternative water supply, and $25 million to combat harmful algal blooms and red tide.
The budget also tackles the challenges of sea-level rise, intensified storm events, and localized flooding by establishing the Resilient Florida program which will provide $1 billion over four years to provide grants to state and local government entities.
To further support Florida on its current path of economic recovery, job growth, and business development, the budget includes $50 million for the Job Growth Grant Fund to support local infrastructure and job training projects targeted towards economic recovery and development.
The budget invests $50 million for VISIT FLORIDA’s marketing programs, the same amount as in the current fiscal year.
According to DeSantis, the budget also includes $50 million for the Economic Development Transportation Fund, also known as the “Road Fund," which will provide funding for projects to facilitate economic development by eradicating location-specific transportation problems (e.g., access roads, signalization, road widening, etc.)
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
The budget includes more than $32 million to provide funding for services to children and families who receive services through Florida’s child welfare system.
The budget includes more than $31 million for adults and children who suffer from mental illness and emotional disturbances and continues the fight against the national opioid epidemic with more than $178 million in state and federal funding.
The budget contains more than $51 million in funding for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities waiver program and allows more individuals with disabilities to live in their communities.
Key public safety investments include $5 million to continue a retention pay plan for correctional officers, correctional probation officers, and inspectors, $26.1 million to continue transitioning correctional officers from a 12-hour shift to an 8.5-hour shift and $12.4 million to fund prevention programs for at-risk youth.
The budget also includes $14.5 million to enhance Florida’s crime databases, including $11.4 million to continue the transition to incident-based crime reporting; and $3.1 million to centralize criminal justice data and make it more transparent to the public.
TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
This year’s budget provides $9.47 billion for the State Transportation Work Program, which funding to increase infrastructure capacity, new highway construction, bridge repairs, and seaport, aviation, and transit program improvements.
The budget also provides $423.3 million for workforce and affordable housing programs across the state to help working families meet basic housing needs. This funding is in addition to the more than $250 million to address affordable housing needs and the increase in homelessness due to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.
SUPPORTING MILITARY AND THEIR FAMILIES
Proposed funding includes $2 million for the Florida Defense Support Task Force, $2 million for military base protection, including additional security measures for National Guard armories, $3.1 million to support Florida National Guardsmen seeking higher education degrees, and $8.4 million to support scholarships for children and spouses of deceased or disabled veterans.
The budget contains nearly $40 million to take action in protecting the State against cyber threats.
Florida's budget was helped by $1 billion in vetoes and $5.8 billion in federal CARES Act funding; however, the state’s tourist-driven economy continues to stagger.
Revenue collections are expected to come in $3.3 billion lower than earlier anticipated levels for the next two years. That slump could force cuts in a state where three out of four tax dollars come from sales tax.
The Legislature last dealt with budget matters in March, when the pandemic was just beginning.
In August, representatives of the State of Florida released an updated estimate of the state's general revenue for the 2020-2021 Fiscal Year of approximately $3.4 billion less than before the coronavirus pandemic.
Florida's shortfall could be eased by President Biden's anticipated federal stimulus package, though DeSantis said his budget doesn’t anticipate additional stimulus dollars from the federal government.
If the aid is approved, DeSantis said he would still take the aid.