March 22, 2019

Florida Senate Budget Proposal Includes a Few Silver Linings; House Under-Invests in Families Nearly Across the Board

In contrast to Governor Ron DeSantis’s and the Florida Senate’s recommended budgets, which both include some workable provisions, the House proposal chips away — with few exceptions — at those programs and services that help keep Florida residents healthy and financially stable.

Also of concern are comments made yesterday by House Speaker Jose Oliva indicating that he wants to lower per-capita spending. Florida already spends less per capita than any other state in the nation, and it shows– we have one of the highest shares of uninsured residents in the nation and a higher-than-average share of residents struggling on income below the poverty level.

We applaud the Senate’s full funding of the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund at $331.9 million. The House, however, diverts $200 million in funds earmarked for affordable housing into general revenue; this is extremely concerning, as a national report came out just last week showing that Florida has one of the most severe affordable housing crises in the nation.

As schools across the state struggle with teacher shortages well into the school year, the Senate proposes a hefty $455.6 million more for K-12 schools than the House budget does. In nominal dollars, the recommended per-pupil funding from the House and Senate — $7,597 and $7,779, respectively — would be the highest on record in Florida. However, the amount spent in FY 2007-08 would equal $8,524 in today’s dollars. Although Florida’s spending on K-12 education has yet to rebound to pre-recession levels, the Senate’s funding recommendation would be a step in the right direction.

Regarding Florida’s criminal justice system, none of the budget proposals invest enough in inmates’ re-entry and rehabilitation. Both chambers recommend a 6 percent increase in Department of Corrections (DOC) funding, which mirrors the governor’s recommendation. The DOC experienced a $28 million deficit last year. However, while the Senate proposes a slight increase in the Department of Juvenile Justice budget, the House decreases total funding for the agency by roughly $22 million from the current year.

The proposed Health and Human Services (HHS) budgets would continue to keep affordable health care out of reach for thousands of Florida families. The Senate HHS budget of $37.7 billion reflects a $339 million increase, while spending remains flat in the House at $37.2 billion. Both proposals, like the governor’s recommended budget, fail to restore Retroactive Medicaid Benefits, a vital cushion for Medicaid beneficiaries following a major medical crisis, like a car accident or stroke.

Further, by choosing not to pursue Medicaid expansion, both chambers continue to miss an unprecedented opportunity to bring to the state substantially more federal dollars to fund access to health care for the poorest Floridians. This would also free up $500 million per year in state dollars, which could help address unmet mental health care needs and combat the opioid crisis.

The Legislature continues to underinvest in critical supports that Florida’s poorest families rely on to make ends meet. The House and Senate proposals both decrease funding for cash assistance; currently, the maximum Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefit is $303/month for a family of three, which is only 17 percent of the poverty level. Further, the House and Senate fail to provide adequate funding for employment and training programs for TANF and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients to help them find gainful employment.

Both the House and Senate propose funding for Florida Forever that’s far below pre-recession levels. Prior to 2008, $300 million annually would go toward the state land acquisition program. For FY 2019-20, the Senate proposes $45 million and the House recommends only $20 million, both far below adequate funding levels, especially given the state’s numerous climate resilience and environmental conservation issues.

We urge budget conferees to prioritize the health and well-being of all Floridians while crafting the final FY 2019-20 state budget and to invest fully in Florida’s future.

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