Committee reviews are scheduled to begin Wednesday of separate House and Senate spending plans for the next fiscal year.
The House unveiled its comprehensive spending request of $89.9 billion late Thursday with the Senate submitting a $90.3 billion proposed fiscal year 2020 budget on Friday.
Both are higher than the $88.7 billion budget for the current fiscal year but less than the $91.3 billion Gov. Ron DeSantis is seeking in his budget request for fiscal year 2020, which begins July 1.
The release of the comprehensive budget packages followed several days in which House and Senate subcommittees released components of the overall spending plans piecemeal.
The House’s proposed General Appropriations Act, introduced as PCB APC 19-01 but likely to be formally filed as House Bill 5001, makes its debut hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, March 27.
The Senate budget proposal, introduced as Senate Panel Bill 2500, has been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will see it for the first time Wednesday.
The chambers’ overall budget plans are only about $400 million apart, less than a half-percent. But both present great variations in spending emphasis, particularly in education and health care – the two largest realms of state expenditure – as well as in environmental programs and hurricane recovery efforts.
EDUCATION: The chambers’ overall plans are $400,000 apart with the primary financial differential stemming from the Senate’s $22.2 billion fiscal year 2020 education plan, which is about $600,000 more than the House’s proposed $21.6 billion education budget.
In between is Gov. Ron DeSantis’ $21.7 billion fiscal year 2020 education budget request
More than $500,000 of the difference in the chambers’ education spending proposals is in Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) allocations.
The Senate FEFP plan would increase per-student funding by 4.71 percent, or $1.1 billion, translating into about $350 more per student. The House FEFP plan would increase per-student funding by 2.75 percent, or $579.3 million, about $167 more for each student.
In between, again, is DeSantis’ $224 per-student increase in the FEFP.
HEALTH CARE: House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta, released the House’s $37.2 billion spending request for the five state agencies related to health and human services.
The Senate on Friday released its $38.66 billion proposed health care budget that includes spending plans for six state agencies.
The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), which runs the Medicaid program which covers 3.8 million beneficiaries, accounts for $29 billion in the House’s spending request.
The House’s proposed budget would make permanent a $103 million reduction to the state’s Medicaid program by reducing retroactivity from 90 days to the first of whatever month a beneficiary enrolls.
The Senate’s tentative plan would increase health care spending by nearly $334 million, revamp how Florida pays hospitals by eliminating the ‘Certificate of Need’ process and funnel $85.6 million to address the opioid crisis and change rules regarding medical marijuana.
ENVIRONMENT: Among other areas of significant budget variation is the Senate’s proposed $1.7 billion environmental spending package and the House’s $3.97 billion proposal.
Both chambers’ spending plans address DeSantis’ spending emphases on Everglades restoration and water-quality improvements. The governor wants $625 million next year for Everglades restoration to kick off a four-year $2.5 billion state-funded initiative.
The Senate’s budget proposal includes $656 million for Everglades restoration and water-quality efforts, $30 million more than DeSantis requested. The House’s request earmarks $607.4 million, nearly $18 million less than what the governor wants.
The Senate’s $1.7 billion environmental protection budget also includes $171 million for the drinking and wastewater revolving loan programs, $158 million for water quality projects, $100 million for springs restoration, $90 million for petroleum tank cleanup program, $50 million for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration, $48 million in federal grants for Hurricane Irma, $40 million in alternative water supply, $27.4 million for the Blue/Green Algae Task Force and Red Tide Research and $25 million for septic-to-sewer programs.
The House’s $3.97 billion environmental spending request includes $607.4 million for Everglades restoration, $50 million for targeted grants for wastewater and stormwater improvements, $50 million for the state’s natural springs and $40 million in the state Department of Transportation work plan to complete raising a section of the Tamiami Trail to improve the sheet flow of water through the Everglades.
The House’s proposed environmental spending plan earmarks $10.8 million to increase water-quality monitoring and establish a Blue Green Algae Task Force within the Department of Environmental Protection and $4.2 million for the creation of the Center for Red Tide Research within the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The House also seeks to spend $307 million for hazardous waste cleanup, $48 million for state park repairs, $50 million for beach repairs and $38.6 million for debris removal from Hurricane Irma.
The Senate’s environmental budget includes $45 million for Florida Forever to acquire land and $44.4 million for beach restoration while the House’s proposed budget request only earmarks $20 million for the program.
DeSantis’ budget request seeks to spend the full $100 million annual allocation on land-acquisition and has warned lawmakers not to “sweep” Florida Forever funding into the general fund, which both chambers — the House quite aggressively —plan to do.