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TALLAHASSEE, FLA.10/25/17-Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, left, talks with Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, and Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, right, during the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

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House and Senate budgets offer similar DOC plans with key disparities

Employee pay and and administration reforms remain outstanding differences.

The House and Senate proposed budgets, filed Thursday, largely incorporate the Governor’s suggestions for the Department of Corrections (DOC).

But key aspects of the budget remain unsettled with employee pay and reform initiatives sitting at the center of that debate.

Though the overall $91.3 billion House proposal fell shy of the Senate’s $92.8 billion budget, both DOC budgets are in the same ballpark. Both measures, and Gov. Ron DeSantis‘, call for approximately $2.8 billion for the department.

“We are encouraged and look forward to reviewing the proposed budgets,” a DOC spokesperson said in a statement. “We look forward to working with both the House and the Senate through this session.”

The Senate budget was the first to drop Thursday and included remarks by Senate President Bill Galvano and budget chief Sen. Rob Bradley. But House Speaker José Oliva and Bradley’s House counterpart, Rep. Travis Cummings, remained silent Thursday evening.

“We are appropriating over $110 million in new funding in the Department of Corrections, as well as other key investments in our court system,” Bradley said.

Both budgets carry aspects of a DOC pilot program to test 8.5-hour shifts instead of the current 12-hour shifts. The Senate plan carries $29.1 million to test that in a third of prison institutions while the House’s plan keeps the trial to a fifth of institutions.

And the Senate’s plan includes $500,000 to develop a plan between DOC and the university health system on transitioning inmate health care to university hospitals.

Neither chambers’ initial criminal-justice budget proposal include money for a $60 million retention-pay plan that DeSantis has requested. He has asked lawmakers to provide funding for the plan to address the high turnover rate of prison guards in the Department of Corrections.

But Bradley said leaving the money out of the initial Senate budget proposal is “no indication” that the Senate will not propose pay raises for correctional officers in the future. Final budget negotiations will take place in March.

“We deal with salary matters down the road,” Bradley said. “That’s common practice.”

However, the Senate’s plan included an across-the-board state employee pay raise of 3% for all state workers, leaving correctional officers without the additional bonus. But Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Chairman Jeff Brandes told The News Service of Florida on Tuesday the Senate is looking at injecting “substantial dollars” into correctional officer pay raises.

Meanwhile, the House proposed a flat $1,800 raise for correctional officers, more in line with DeSantis’ ask.

The total budget recommendations spawning Brandes’ subcommittee totaled $5.6 billion and its House counterpart got a $5.5 billion nod in their chambers’ respective budgets. In addition to DOC, those panels provided budget outlines for the Department of Law Enforcement, Department of Juvenile Justice, Justice Administrative Commission, Florida Commission on Offender Review, state courts and Attorney General’s Department of Legal Affairs.

The 2020-2021 fiscal year begins on July 1.

Information from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

Written By

Renzo Downey covers the Florida Legislature for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering the Texas House of Representatives for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

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