March 8, 2024

Statement on Florida Budget and End-of-Session Legislation

The Florida Legislature today passed its fiscal year (FY) 2024-25 budget proposal (HB 5001), which totals $117.5 billion and represents a $947 million (or a 0.81 percent) increase to the current budget. Concerning funding sources, the budget incorporates $49.4 billion in general revenue funds, $38 billion in federal funds, and $30 billion in state trust funds.

Now that the Legislature has passed the FY 2024-25 General Appropriations Act, the governor will have an opportunity to review the budget, veto specific line items if necessary, and sign the bill into law (which would go into effect on July 1). The Legislature can override the governor’s vetoes if two-thirds of the members in each chamber vote to do so. HB 49, which would roll back child labor laws, also passed both chambers of the Florida Legislature on March 8, 2024. Florida Policy Institute (FPI) released the statement below on several key issues and the agreed-upon budget.

On final passage of HB 49, rolling back child labor laws:

While the final version of HB 49 as passed by the Legislature still rolls back some child labor protections, when compared to the originally-filed House version, it poses fewer threats to teens’ health and safety.

However, the legislation would still allow employers to schedule 16- and 17-year-olds for more than six days in a row during the school year. It also carves home- and virtual-school students out of state child labor laws entirely, meaning they could be scheduled for overnight shifts on a school night or for more than 30 hours in a school week, putting their education and well-being at risk.

We’ve been a staunch opponent of HB 49 since the bill was first introduced this past fall. While we do not support any rollback of long-held child labor protections, the bill passed today rightly preserves the existing work curfew for 16- and 17-year-olds in state law, maintains breaks for longer shifts, and does not completely remove current daily and weekly work limits.

Florida Policy Institute, our partners in the child well-being and labor spaces, educators, and parents had worked hard to build awareness around and advocate against the legislation’s most concerning provisions. Thanks to that sustained upswell of opposition, the final bill does not pose the same degree of risk to Florida’s youth as the original version.

On the FY 2024-25 General Appropriations Act
Regarding Home and Community Based Services and Summer EBT:

We are glad to see some positive investments included in HB 5001, the FY 2024-25 General Appropriations Act (GAA), such as $80 million in recurring funds allocated to reduce wait lists for Home and Community Based Services. While this is not enough to adequately address the great need for these services, the recurring funds are a welcome and much needed step forward. Additionally, the GAA’s implementing bill includes language that gives the Department of Children and Families the authority to request funds for the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer grant program offered by the federal government. FPI and our partners have been strong advocates in support of this program, which would provide nutrition aid to 2.2 million children in Florida. By providing this authorization, Florida could potentially draw down $260 million in funding to relieve food insecurity for children during the summer months.

Regarding K-12 voucher funding:

Soon after last year’s HB 1 was introduced, FPI and the Education Law Center estimated universal vouchers would cost the state $4 billion. This figure is now being reflected in the proposed budget for 2024-25, with $2.8 billion in the budget from the Florida Education Finance Program. In addition, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program has again been approved for $1.1 billion, bringing the total available new funding for universal vouchers to $3.9 billion. This is right around FPI’s original estimate. Unfortunately, there is very little public data available to better understand which families and students are receiving vouchers and what their educational outcomes are, and few guardrails as to how voucher money can be spent. The Legislature had the chance to reel in the most blatant non-educational voucher expenditures, but at the very last moment reversed course, keeping the door open for continued possible abuses of the program.

Policymakers are the stewards of taxpayer dollars, and the state’s failure to ensure appropriate guardrails and transparency for the voucher program is particularly disconcerting.

Regarding funding for Department of Corrections:

The GAA includes $293 million for the maintenance and repair of correctional facilities — an increase compared to the current $198 million funding level. This includes $96 million in recurring general revenue funds for capital improvements and housing units. While these increases are notable, they still fail to address the magnitude of the issue.

Regarding the failure to expand Medicaid:

The GAA also reflects key missed opportunities. Once again, the Legislature did not expand Florida’s Medicaid program, which would generate an additional $5 billion per year from federal funding, save the state about $200 million annually, include a $2.8 billion federal “bonus” over the the first two years of expansion, and provide health care to an estimated 1.4 million Floridians. While the Live Healthy Act provides an increased investment in the health care sector, without Medicaid expansion, the full impact it seeks to achieve will be limited.

Regarding toll relief:

The budget allocates $450 million to reimburse the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, Florida toll facilities, and other toll entities for credits issued for promotional purposes and for the 2023 toll relief program. There are, however, more effective and targeted ways to provide direct relief to working Floridians. Instead, policymakers could have used the money to establish the Working Floridians Tax Rebate Program, a state-level Earned Income Tax Credit that would benefit over 2 million Florida households, not just commuters.

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