From the Capitol

The Florida Legislature completed its only constitutional duty when it passed the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 budget at 2:03pm on Saturday, May 4th, after extending session one extra day to meet the 72-hour review period. The funding proposal was unanimously approved by the Senate and a 106-2 House vote. The budget, as passed, is for a record $91.1 billion dollars. This represents a 2.68 percent increase over the current fiscal year’s budget.

Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) and House Speaker Jose Oliva (R-Miami) conducted the session in a very cordial manner. Both presiding officers achieved a majority of their priorities. Oliva focused on several health care bills while Galvano had a plan to build toll roads in three areas of the state. The Governor wanted authority for the state to import prescription drugs from Canada, prohibit sanctuary cities, additional funding for the environment and expansion of school choice.

In comments after the session ended on Saturday afternoon, Governor Ron DeSantis suggested that additional money needs to be directed to reserves in case the State’s economy experiences a downturn. He also indicated that he will be vetoing projects in the budget as well as policy bills passed by the Legislature. The Governor assured Floridians that the final budget would be less than $91 billion.

A major priority of the State’s government was funding for hurricane relief as a result of Hurricane Michael, which devastated the Panhandle last October. A total of $1.86 billion was allocated to the area for cleanup, affordable housing, road and infrastructure repairs, and school rebuilding, among other projects. Of this total, $1.64 billion is considered emergency funding. With Michael being upgraded to a Category 5 hurricane, the federal reimbursement rate will increase to ninety percent from the current seventy-five percent.

Legislative leaders touted $783 million of increased spending for public schools. This represents a $75 per-student increase in spending as compared to a $0.47 increase last year. Even with the new public school funding, Florida remains in the bottom ten states for per student funding. Additionally, a newly approved school voucher program will fund as many as 18,000 students to attend private schools. Regarding bonuses for teachers, the Governor had recommended a $422 million increase, but the Legislature approved only $285 million. University operations were cut $35 million this year, though some received funding for new building construction.

The Governor’s proposal for environmental spending was dealt a blow when funding for the land conservation program known as Florida Forever came in at $33 million, which is $67 million less than the Governor’s request. Florida parks received $31 million despite the Governor’s proposed $50 million. Lake Okeechobee restoration will have $322.6 million and springs programs was given $100 million. Nevertheless, the Legislature allocated a total of $687 million for water quality and protection, which was above the Governor’s recommendation.

Health care funding from general revenue totaled $10.2 billion which, when added to funding received from the federal government, created a total health care budget of $37.6 billion. There are no Medicaid reimbursement rates for hospitals. Retroactive Medicaid eligibility for elderly and the disabled has been eliminated for another year, at least.

VISIT Florida has been the subject of much criticism and debate, especially after the House decided to defund the program and sunset it in October. However, with the support of the Governor and the Senate, the Legislature funded the program for $50 million until June 30, 2020. The Governor requested this extension to provide time for his office to study the effectiveness of the agency. Enterprise Florida has been funded at the $16 million level. Forty million dollars was appropriated for the Job Growth Grant Fund.

Outlined below is the distribution of funding by category:

Education 26,045,586,421
Human Services 37,667,459,851
Criminal Justice/Corrections   4,870,108,398
Natural Resources/Environment/
Growth Management/Transportation
General Government   7,210,255,097
Judicial     554,971,192

Together these total $91,106,375,235.  We will be reporting the Governor’s vetoes in our next eNewsletter.  Should you have any questions regarding specific expenditures, please let us know.