TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — The Florida Senate and House began trading budget proposals on Monday despite gaps in spending issues such as public schools, tourism and land preservation. Lawmakers are largely optimistic about what is expected to be a record budget for the 2023–2024 fiscal year – which starts July 1.
“I think we’re in great shape,” Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Chair Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island) said. “We’ve been working really well with our House counterparts.”
“The biggest spend in our area of the budget is the Department of Corrections. And we’ve made great progress aligning on a lot of those issues, so I feel we’re well-positioned to make good progress during the conference,” Bradley added.
SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER PROPOSALS
The budget for the current fiscal year totaled $109.9 billion, and Senate and House proposals are significantly higher for 2023–2024 but not quite to the $114.8 billion recommended by DeSantis in his Framework for Freedom budget announced in February. Both chambers must resolve any differences by May 2 to end the legislative session on May 5 as scheduled.
“We’re pretty fortunate. It’s been a pretty good financial year for the state,” House Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Chairman Alex Andrade (R-Pensacola) said. “So, it makes our jobs a little bit easier this year than other years.”
Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Chairman Ed Hooper (R-Clearwater) said the governor’s absence this week won’t affect negotiations. But DeSantis will have line-item veto power over the budget lawmakers present to him.
Issues still in negotiation include:
- A $100 million gap in funding for the Florida Education Finance Program, the primary funding source for public schools. The initial House offer of $26.76 billion – a roughly $2.2 billion increase over the current year – was higher than the Senate had planned.
- Environmental budget gaps. The Senate wants $337 million to preserve land and limit development while allowing ranching and farming to continue. The House only proposed spending $50 million. In addition, the House offered $300 million toward issues affecting sea-level changes, but the Senate has allocated only $179 million.
Issues resolved on Monday include:
- $75 million for the state Job Growth Grant Fund, which DeSantis can use for regional infrastructure projects.
- $20 million to continue offering $5,000 bonuses to recruit law enforcement officers from across the country.
(DeSantis had asked for $100 million for the jobs fund and $30 million for the bonuses.)