The Florida House and Senate yesterday passed an $88.7 billion budget, a 4.4 percent increase over the current fiscal year.
While leaders touted ‘unprecedented’ per-pupil funding levels in K-12, they remain far below pre-recession funding levels when accounting for inflation. Lawmakers also raided the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund, sweeping $182 million into the General Revenue Fund. At the same time, Florida lawmakers approved a $169 million tax reduction package, while the state is already forgoing $18 billion in revenue in the current fiscal year through credits and exemptions.
Additionally, the state once again missed the opportunity to expand Medicaid to more than 500,000 low-income Floridians. The state could draw down billions more in federal funding by expanding the program and free up $500 million in state dollars to reinvest in mental health care, affordable housing, our public schools and colleges and universities.
The budget did include additional funding for several key programs that are crucial for meaningful criminal justice reform. For example, lawmakers increased investment in physical and mental health treatment and approved a pay raise for probation and detention officers.
In order to build thriving communities, the state needs to make fiscal decisions that will help improve the health and well-being of its residents. Unfortunately, we did not see that in this year’s budget.