Floridians Must Play an Important Role in the State Budget Process
The budget is the primary means by which elected public officials address the needs of Floridians. This guide offers a snapshot of the Florida budget cycle, while in-depth discussions and analyses of the state budget are available on Florida Policy Institute’s website.
At its core, Florida’s budget describes what the state does by listing how it spends money. It connects tasks to be performed with the number of monetary resources to accomplish these tasks. As such, the budget ensures that money will be available to invest in Florida’s schools, safety net programs, public health, infrastructure projects, housing, and the environment. The budget also limits spending by the revenue available to ensure balance and prevent overspending. While the budget is a legal document, a technical document, and a political document, it is, above all, a public document.
Budgets are choices about what a government will and will not do. These choices point to critical decisions about what kind of services the state should provide and what people are entitled to as members of society. For this reason, Floridians must have a voice in the budget process. Today, Floridians can influence the state budget to reflect their needs. While Florida’s final budget, the General Appropriations Act (GAA), is prepared annually, budgetary decisions have multigeneration consequences that impact Floridians’ quality of life for years to come.
Budget Process for the Upcoming Fiscal Year
Planning is already underway for Florida’s upcoming fiscal year, which is a special 12-month financial period used by the state for convenience in record keeping, tax collecting, spending, and general financial management. In Florida, the fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30. The upcoming 2021-22 fiscal year will kick off July 1, 2021, and end June 30, 2022.
Before starting any fiscal year, the governor, agency heads,legislators, interest groups, courts, and the public all have a role to play. As a matter of rules, Florida law dictates the budget process, from divvying up decisions to assigning tasks to actors or groups of actors and coordinating their choices. Several budgeting guides sum up the budgeting process through an acronym, PLEA: preparation, legislative approval, executive implementation, and auditing.
July 15, 2020 - Governor Ron DeSantis provided written instructions to state agencies to develop their Legislative Budget Requests (LBRs) and asked that they submit lists of possible reductions (at least 8.5 percent in General Revenue Fund dollars and 8.5 percent in State Trust Fund dollars) due to pandemic-related budget shortfalls.
The instructions also asked agencies to submit a list of possible reductions for FY 2021-2022 (at least 10 percent in General Revenue Fund dollars and 10 percent in State Trust Fund dollars).
September 15, 2020 - The state is required to provide a Long-Range Financial Outlook to guide state agencies as they plan their budgets.
The Long-Range Financial Outlook, which is provided by the Office of Economic & Demographic Research, estimates that state revenue will not match pre-pandemic projections for at least three fiscal years (FY 2022-23, FY 2023-2024, FY 2024-2025), in addition to FY 2021-2022.
In terms of available general revenue to meet the critical and high priority needs of Floridians, the Outlook estimates that there will be a revenue shortfall of $2.75 billion in FY 2021-2022, a shortfall of $1.90 billion in FY 2022-2023, and a shortfall of $927 million in FY 2023-2024.
September 30, 2020 - State agencies create their Long-Range Program Plans (LRPPs) that outline their goals.
October 15, 2020 - State agencies use the Long-Range Financial Outlook and their LRPPs to inform their Legislative Budget Requests (LBRs).
Dates vary, starting in October 2020 - State agencies explain their LBRs in public hearings.
Dates vary, before January 31, 2021 - Governor Ron DeSantis holds at least one public hearing on the agency LBRs.
At least 30 days before the beginning of the legislative session - The governor uses the LBRs to make a budget recommendation. The governor presents a recommended budget to the Legislature. This budget promotes the governor’s key issues and priorities.
The legislative session will convene on Tuesday, March 2, 2021.
March 2021 - The various appropriation committees in the Florida House and Senate craft what will become Florida’s budget (GAA) and the statutory authority needed to implement and execute the budget (the “implementation bill”) during the legislative session. The appropriation bills are filed, open to amendment by all members, and passed by each chamber. 
April/May 2021 - Joint Budget Conference Committees are formed to negotiate over differences between the House and Senate budget bills.
May/June 2021 - The Legislature enacts the GAA for the coming fiscal year. The act identifies specific expenditures and revenue sources. Spending cannot exceed the revenue available for funding.
May/June 2021 - The governor reviews the GAA and submits a veto message to the Legislature or Secretary of State within seven or 15 days.
June 2021 - The Legislature may override any or all the vetoes.
Auditing and Accounting
June/September 2021 - Legislature prepares and releases its Fiscal Analysis in Brief for the previous fiscal year.
 When the Legislature decides that general law changes are required to implement and execute the GAA, those changes are placed in a general “Implementing Bill” (HB 5003). The changes made in the Implementing Bill are in place for only one year and either expire on July 1 of the next fiscal year or revert to the language as it existed before the changes made by the bill. For an analysis and summary of the previous Implementing Bill, visit the Florida Senate’s HB 5003 page.