While the budget and supporting legislation about to be passed by the Florida Legislature contain some positives, including additional funding for higher education, a salary increase for the state workforce and a major investment in the environment, the overall level of investment in Florida’s future leaves much to be desired.
The Florida Legislature will take a final vote on the state budget for Fiscal Year 2017-18 on Monday, May 8. The budget they will vote up or down totals $82.4 billion, an increase of $70 million, 0.08 percent, over the current year.
This legislative session has been particularly contentious because of the differing approaches of the Florida House and Senate in building their chambers’ budgets for the coming year. The House worked under direction from leadership to reduce the budget by at least $1 billion. Two Senate leadership initiatives alone increased their budget by more than $1 billion over the current year. This $2 billion discrepancy was the starting point for budget negotiations.
In addition, the federal government entered the fray late in the legislative process with an offer of $900 million in federal health care funding for a $600 million state match. Absent details about the terms and conditions of the funding, the funding is addressed in a separate bill that requires legislative approval of a spending plan through the Legislative Budget Commission.
Funding to address the toxic overflows from Lake Okeechobee is addressed in Senate Bill (SB) 10, rather than the budget. SB 10 allows $800 million in bonding authority over the next two years to acquire the land and create water storage for this purpose. It also earmarks up to $64 million annually from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to repay debt associated with the bonds.
An additional $414 million is tied to the passage of a controversial 278-page education conference package that will be voted up or down by the Legislature on Monday (Conference Report on House Bill 7069). Included in the package are funds for teacher and principal bonuses and $200 million to create new charter schools or to enable the existing traditional schools to provide additional services for students in persistently failing schools.
Below are the highlights of the budget on which the Legislature will vote Monday.
The total cost of the legislative tax package to the state is more than $80 million. The tax package includes:
Total funding for education is $24 billion, including almost $2 billion in Lottery funds. The funding represents an increase of almost $600 million over the current year. Notable aspects of the funding include:
Total funding for health and human services is $34 billion, a decrease of almost $149 million from the current year. Notable aspects of the funding include:
Total funding for public safety is $4.79 billion, an increase of $27 million over the current year. Notable aspects of the funding include:
The Legislature eliminates funding for Enterprise Florida, Inc., the controversial public/private partnership that serves as the economic development agency for the state. Other notable aspects of the funding include:
The transportation budget for the coming fiscal year is $10.9 billion, an increase of $133 million over the current year. Other notable aspects of the funding include:
The notable aspects of funding for environmental protection include: