Gov. Ron DeSantis’s “fiscally responsible and fiscally sustainable” $91.4 billion fiscal 2021 budget request calls for a 0.4 percent increase in state spending over this year’s budget, keeping proposed expenditures in line with slowing economic indicators but investing for “the long haul.”
DeSantis unveiled his proposed comprehensive budget package Monday after introducing various components since September, including $900 million in teacher salary, bonus increases and another $625 million allocation for his four-year, $2.5 billion Everglades/water quality program.
The governor’s proposed $1.3 billion spending increase over this year’s $90.98 billion budget – $1.2 billion less than his administration’s first budget request in January of $91.3 billion – comes as state economists project an $867.7 million, or 0.8 percent, dip in projected revenues this year and in fiscal 2021.
Despite the downward revision, general revenue funds available for fiscal 2021 are estimated to increase by $1.4 billion, or 4.3 percent, from this year.
“I told my folks, I said we have got to do this in a way that is fiscally responsible and fiscally sustainable. We’re not going to budge on that,” he said during a Capitol news conference. “And I really believe that you have the ability to do a lot of really bold things but do that within the context of a budget that was built for the long haul. And I think that that’s what we have done today.”
Senate President Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, noting the governor’s budget request “reflects many priorities my Senate colleagues and I share,” reserved comment on specific proposals until revenue forecasts are updated.
“We are closely monitoring the next round of consensus estimating conferences, which will provide important updates in terms of anticipated needs in each area of the budget,” Galvano said in a statement. “We are also anticipating a new general revenue estimate, which will indicate if there has been a change in the amount of revenue available to meet those needs.”
DeSantis’s "Bolder, Brighter, Better Future" budget request calls for a 0.126 millage cut in the Florida Education Finance Program’s (FEFP) local-effort property tax, returning $247.3 million to homeowners, and $56 million in savings for 8-day back-to-school and 10-day disaster preparedness sales tax holidays – as proposed by pre-filed companion bills – for a total proposed tax relief package of $312 million.
The proposed spending plan “builds on our successes of the past year, placing emphasis where it is needed while remaining fiscally responsible to Florida taxpayers,” DeSantis said. “The budget includes key investments in our K-12 education system, our environment and the well-being of our residents, while recommending over $480 million in savings and over $300 million in tax relief.”
The governor’s proposed $480 million in savings come from the elimination of the $284.5 million "Best and Brightest" bonus program, which is being refashioned; the elimination of $84.8 million in "earmarks"; and $77 million in debt service, administrative and operational efficiencies.
The proposed budget places $5.6 billion in total reserves, including a $200 million boost in general revenue reserves to $1.4 billion, more than 6 percent of the total budget.
DeSantis’s budget request allocates $30.3 billion for the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), an increase of $882 million, with $22.35 billion of that funding, and $502 million of that increase, for Medicaid.
The proposed spending plan seeks nearly $27 billion for the Department of Education, a $961.67 million hike, which includes salary increases for more than 100,000 teachers and a boost of nearly $1 billion for a proposed $22.9 billion Florida Education Finance Program (FEDP).
DeSantis’s budget request also seeks $115 million in increased spending for a $2.85 billion Department of Corrections (DOC) budget that includes 380 new positions; a $233.5 million boost for a $2 billion Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) budget; a $77.34 million increase for a $3.37 billion Department of Children & Families (DCF) budget; a $58 million hike in the Agency for Persons with Disabilities’ $1.475 billion budget; and a $12 million spending increase in a $976 million Department of Justice Administration budget.
Departments and agencies facing cuts in the governor’s budget request include the Department of Transportation (DOT), which would receive $856 million less next year than this year in his $9.92 DOT spending plan.
Under the governor’s proposal, the Department of Agriculture’s budget would be trimmed by $38.49 million to $1.7 billion; Department of Health’s budget cut by $14.34 million to $3 billion; Department of Economic Opportunity gashed by $400 million to $1.24 billion; and the Governor’s Office chopped by $356 million to $1.74 billion.
The governor’s budget request earmarks $1.9 billion for hurricane-related expenses, including $1.3 billion for Hurricane Michael, allocates $387 million to fully fund workforce and affordable housing trust funds, and $100 million for the Forever Florida environmental land acquisition program.