Lawmakers Set to Approve $117.5B State Budget on Time

Posted on March 6, 2024 by Staff reports

The clock is ticking toward Friday’s close of the 2024 Legislative Session, and Senate Appropriations Chairman Doug Broxson and House Budget Chairman Tom Leek finalized negotiations in time for a required 72-hour “cooling off” period ahead of the official vote, presenting a balanced budget for next fiscal year which includes a $10 billion surplus, $500 million to pay off state debt, tax relief, renewal of a $300 million toll relief program, and a 3% salary raise for state employees.

The proposed budget includes 14 pages of additional supplemental line items, negotiated this past weekend, including but limited to:

  • $10 million for hurricane and tornado recovery and management via Northwest Florida Water Management District;
  • $2.5 million for Pensacola International Airport Passenger Terminal Building Expansion and Renewal;
  • $5 million for Pensacola State College Operational Enhancement
  • $1 million for the South Santa Rosa Soccer Complex
  • $500,000 for Woodbine Road/Chumuckla Hwy. & Quintette Road intersection improvements, 

“I’m very thankful to Senator Doug Broxson and his committement to bringing state funds back to Santa Rosa County so that we can use it to improve our infrastructure, specfically the Woodbine Road corridor. His leadership and committement to Santa Rosa County has been second to none,” said Santa Rosa County Commission Chairman Sam Parker. 

House Bill 5001, the General Appropriations Act, also makes significant investments in Florida’s infrastructure, with record funding for public schools and school choice opportunities for Florida parents. Additional legislation passed by both Chambers includes historic funding to grow Florida’s health care workforce and new, dedicated investments in Florida’s environment & clean water resiliency. 

“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.” 

“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.

“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 and our clean water infrastructure that will expand public access for recreation and preserve our environment and natural resources for future generations of Floridians and visitors.”

“Our budget furthers 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 making tremendous investments in water quality improvements and Everglades restoration, with significant funds for conservation acquisitions, including our Wildlife Corridor. We continue to dedicate resources towards resiliency efforts that combat risks of flooding and sea level rise. Our Wastewater and Drinking Water Revolving Loan Programs contribute to Florida’s clean water infrastructure, along with local water infrastructure improvements in communities across the state brought forward by legislators advocating for their constituents.

“On top of the meaningful appropriations in our state budget, we account for legislation by Senator Hutson, which passed the Senate earlier this session 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.

“We are also making a significant, recurring investment to address major needs in our prison infrastructure. $100 million a year will go a long way to fund both long-term construction projects and the repair of our aging prison infrastructure.

“Last year we funded a historic expansion of education and vocational programming in the DOC, with an emphasis on virtual education. We are continuing that expansion, including additional teachers and IT Infrastructure, equipment, and educational materials which will 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 to an unprecedented level, including raising the base student allocation, which we know provides important, needed flexibility for our districts. Additionally, we are renewing our commitment to Florida’s public school teachers with a $1.2 billion investment in teacher salaries.

“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 strong reserves 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 significant funds to support performance and excellence initiatives in our state 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 through the Governor’s Moving Forward Initiative. 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, which the Senate passed earlier this session, 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.”

The proposed budget is suject to veto by Governor Ron DeSantis.