The Florida Senate Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Senator Doug Broxson (R-Pensacola), on January 26 released Senate Proposed Bill 2500, the General Appropriations Act, as well as the implementing bill and conforming bills associated with a balanced budget for the upcoming 2024-2025 fiscal year. The legislation makes significant investments in Florida’s infrastructure, with record funding for public schools and school choice opportunities for Florida parents. The budget authorizes paying off $455 million in state debt, accounts for significant tax relief, and sets aside record state reserves. Additional legislation advancing in the Senate includes historic funding to grow Florida’s health care workforce and new, dedicated investments in Florida’s environment & clean water resiliency.
Senate Bill 2500, a nearly 500-page document, includes but is not limited to the following proposed local appropriations:
- $13.4M for a training center at Pensacola State
- $26.2M for a science and engineering research wing at UWF
- $12.1M for critical infrastructure at UWF
- $6.6M for Santa Rosa County Early Learning Coalition
- $3.3M for VPK in Santa Rosa County
- $2.5M for Workforce Development in Santa Rosa County
- $8.5M for Blackwater Correctional Facility
- $750K for Santa Rosa County Sheriff Admin Complex
- $1M for Santa Rosa County Wastewater Treatment Plant at I-10
- $500K for Oriole Beach Drainage
- $1M for Woodbine/Chumuckla Hwy./Quintette Rd Improvement
- $1M for South Santa Rosa Soccer Complex
- $150,000 for Veterans Treatment Court in Santa Rosa County
Comments from Chair Broxson, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples), and the Chairs of the five Senate Appropriations Committees governing various budget silos include several highlights of the proposed budget.
“Other states are making deep budget cuts and raising taxes because they spent pandemic funds on recurring expenses they can’t afford and are now facing post-pandemic declining revenues and budget deficits, which is only making matters worse. Thanks to sound financial management throughout the pandemic by Governor DeSantis and the Legislature here in the Sunshine State, forward-looking investments are shoring up our infrastructure, helping to create good jobs in growing communities,” said Chair Broxson.
“Here in the free state of Florida, we wisely utilized pandemic funds to make critical, one-time, generational investments in our infrastructure – from roads and bridges, to education facilities, to clean water and coastal resilience,” said President Passidomo. “As the timeline to spend pandemic funds is coming to end, we are making smart, fiscally-responsible adjustments and right-sizing our balanced budget to a level sustainable for the long term. Our revenues are increasing, but instead of spending all of we have, we are paying down debt, setting aside historic reserves, and providing for meaningful tax relief, so Floridians can keep more of their hard-earned money.”
“With more than 300,000 people a year moving to the free state of Florida, we are getting ready and building a transportation, housing, health care, and clean water infrastructure that can accommodate significant population growth over the next decade,” continued President Passidomo. “With all the growth we are experiencing, we can’t and won’t forget one of the main reasons people move here in the first place – our environment. We are continuing to expand our wildlife corridor, and making ongoing investments in land management that will expand public access for recreation and preserve our environment and natural resources for future generations of Floridians and visitors.”
“Our budget continues our commitment to retain the talented and dedicated workers who serve in state government with an across the board salary increase to address inflation, and targeted raises for some of the most difficult jobs in state government,” said Chair Broxson.
Senator Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government:
“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 investing over $1 billion for water quality improvements and Everglades restoration, and more than $400 million for conservation acquisitions, including our Wildlife Corridor. We have $120 million for our Flood and Sea Level Rise Program and $770 million for the Wastewater and Drinking Water Revolving Loan Programs as well as $178 million for water infrastructure improvements. We account for additional legislation by Senator Hutson that appropriates significant funding for clean water infrastructure and our Wildlife Corridor, including land management efforts that will expand public access to state recreation and game lands. On the governmental operations side of our committee, we are ensuring our agencies continue to run effectively and efficiently.”
Senator Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Civil and Criminal Justice:
“Our budget focuses on the highest priority request of nearly all of our agencies with an across the board salary increase, continuing state efforts to address staffing, recruitment and retention issues in the Department of Corrections (DOC), Department of Juvenile Justice, and our Court System.
“The centerpiece of our Senate budget is a massive investment to address major needs in our prison infrastructure. We are providing $100 million a year for 30 years, a total of $3 billion, to address both long-term construction projects and the repair of our aging prison infrastructure. The first year of funding would provide funds to complete the Lake Mental Health facility, and funding for four new dorms at existing prisons.
“Last year we funded a historic expansion of education and vocational programming in the DOC, with an emphasis on virtual education. This budget provides $11.1 million to continue the expansion, including additional teachers and IT Infrastructure, equipment, and educational materials to expand current learning labs and online education opportunities. 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. We are also expanding funds for our phone call savings program. This program awards inmates with a free 15-minute call each month if they remain incident-free the prior three months, which gives families of inmates a break on costs and incentivizes good behavior.”
Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Education:
“This budget continues our strong support of education in Florida. We are increasing K-12 per student funding by $218 and of that amount, $175 is an increase to the base student allocation, which we know provides important, needed flexibility for our districts. As parents across the state continue to guide how and where the funding for their children’s education is spent, utilizing education options provided by the Family Empowerment Scholarship, again this year we are holding $350 million in reserve for FES scholarships in case more students then we expect enroll in the program. This level of funding ensures traditional, neighborhood public schools continue to see a historic level of per student funding.
“We know students are best-served when education is linked to the realities and opportunities of the economy and the job market. Along those lines are we are continuing our commitment to Career and Technical Education opportunities with supports for schools districts, colleges, and universities that create or expand these vital programs.
“In higher education, we maintain the low cost of tuition and do not authorize any tuition increases at Florida colleges and universities. Like last year, each university can spend tuition and fee revenue collected without having to seek legislative authorization to increase spending authority. This approach does not allow for tuition increases, but gives universities additional flexibility as their enrollment increases. We also appropriate $845 million to support performance and excellence initiatives in our state universities, which includes an additional $100 million for preeminent research universities.”
Senator Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services:
“Our Health and Human Services budget complements the historic appropriations throughout our Live Healthy legislation with important investments to improve the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable in our state, particularly our children, elders and our fellow Floridians with disabilities. We are also increasing funds to support independent living for our youth in the child welfare system, raising the level of respite support for families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, and expanding needed services for those struggling with substance abuse. We are yet again committing to the long-term care of our veterans by providing funding for our 9th state veterans’ nursing home in Collier County, ensuring Florida remains the most veteran-friendly state in the nation.
“This budget, and our Live Healthy proposal, have a tremendous focus on mental health that will expand the number of providers and really change the way people can access mental health services. Whether it’s an online provider via telehealth, or someone who needs more intensive, long-term services, we want people to know that Florida has the options you need.
“With the investments contained in this budget and the entirety of our Live Healthy package, Florida is creating an efficient and effective health care system that will provide more options for the people of our state to receive the best care possible in an environment best-suited to their needs.”
Senator Ed Hooper (R-Clearwater), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development:
“Our transportation infrastructure is the foundation for Florida’s vibrant, diverse economy. This budget continues our historic, generational infrastructure investments in transportation. Affordable housing options for our workers – the backbone of Florida’s economy – are also a critical component of our state infrastructure. We maintain the critical commitment and vision for workforce housing, outlined in our Live Local Act of 2023. Additional legislation by Senator Calatayud includes $100 million for our Hometown Heroes program to assist Florida workers in purchasing homes in their communities.
“We also continue our efforts to help communities impacted by recent hurricanes with investments 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 are continuing our efforts to recruit law enforcement officers to our state. 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.”