From The Capitol

LEGISLATIVE SESSION START The 2019 Florida Legislative Session will begin tomorrow, March 5th, with a scheduled end date of May 3rd. With a new Governor, Lieutenant Governor, new legislative leaders, and new priorities, we can look forward to an interesting and fast-moving Session.

Governor Ron DeSantis, and Lieutenant Governor, former State Representative Jeanette Núñez, have launched an ambitious agenda on a wide range of topics in the first two months of office. Florida’s three other Cabinet officers, Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried have also moved forward with their offices’ reorganizations and programs. 

GOVERNOR’S BUDGET One of the Governor’s first order of business was to present his budget recommendations to the Legislature. However, the State Constitution requires that it is the Legislature’s responsibility to pass a balanced budget each year. The Governor may then veto all or part of the appropriations bill presented to him.

The Governor proposed a record $91.3 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year. While most of the spending is a carryover from the former Governor’s legislative requests, new priorities and spending are included in the proposal. It totals $2.6 billion more than last year and adds 800 new state employees.

Some highlights include: $500 million to reward and retain teachers; a $224 per pupil increase in education spending; $9 billion for new infrastructure; a 37 percent increased funding request to combat opioid addiction; and an additional $2 billion for hurricane relief efforts. The Governor also requested $625 million toward environmental projects, which would fulfil his campaign promise to increase environmental spending by $2.5 billion over a four-year period. The affordable housing trust funds would not be swept – rather low interest loans would be offered to affordable housing developers. There are no pay raises for state employees (except in two divisions where high turnover is a problem). State economists are concerned about a possible recession within the next few years. To prepare for such an event, state reserves would be increased by $5.2 billion.