Gov. Ron DeSantis revealed his budget recommendations for the next fiscal year on Thursday.
Several Florida politicians and associations commented on the spending plan after it was released.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried
Fried, the only Democrat elected to statewide office, cast the budget was “disappointing.”
“Everyone recognizes the historically poor fiscal situation facing our state, which is why our department submitted a fiscally responsible $163 million budget request, a significant reduction from our $259 million 2020-21 request. This budget meets the bare minimum standards to operate our department’s wide-ranging responsibilities, from promoting Florida agriculture and feeding children to supporting our wildland firefighters and law enforcement personnel,” she said.
“The proposed budget mostly meets those bare minimums, but it’s disappointing that when our hardworking farmers and ranchers most need help due to hundreds of millions in losses, this budget proposes cutting Fresh From Florida funding not only $500,000 in the coming year, but actually takes back $680,000 from the current budget. With environmental protection being touted today as a priority, it’s also disappointing that one of Florida’s best environmental conservation tools would once again receive zero funding. We look forward to working with the Legislature to advocate for these common-sense priorities.”
Senate President Wilton Simpson
Simpson’s spokesperson, Katie Betta, said the Trilby Republican “appreciates the Governor’s recommendations, and he looks forward to reviewing the Governor’s proposed budget in detail next week when the Governor’s Staff will present before the Senate Committee on Appropriations and its subcommittees.”
The Senate calendar shows the full Appropriations Committee will hear a presentation on the Governor’s budget when it meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday. The subcommittees will meet throughout the day on Wednesday.
She continued, “It has been a very difficult year and there have been many changes since the last time we were at this point in the budget process, so the President certainly has great respect and appreciation for the tremendous amount of work and the many difficult decisions went into preparing these recommendations. He will receive an initial briefing from our staff this afternoon.”
Florida Education Association
FEA, the state’s largest teacher union, issued a statement asking lawmakers to preserve public school. The union said their priorities include allowing teachers to earn multi-year contracts, protecting the Florida Retirement System without raising employee contribution rates, maintaining the pause on standardized tests, and giving local school boards more control over their districts.
“We realize that this is going to be a tight budget year, but now is not the time to divert any funding from our public schools,” said FEA President Andrew Spar. “Our state must continue to invest in public schools, and to invest in our students and the teachers and support staff who serve them. When the pandemic struck, educators stood in the gap and overcame tremendous obstacles to meet students’ needs. Now our lawmakers need to step up and not only protect but enhance funding for our public schools. For the good of our state and our students, public education must be well-positioned as we start coming out of this pandemic.”
FEA said public schools were already underfunded before the pandemic and called on lawmakers to “step up and fully fund” schools in the 2021-22 budget.
“Our state has long tied the hands of local districts to set appropriate funding priorities based on the needs of the students and the people who serve them,” Spar said. “When there’s not a lot of money, flexibility matters.”
Florida Health Care Association
FHCA applauded the budget proposal for preserving the $105 million Medicaid increase for nursing center care that was passed by the Legislature last Session.
“Florida’s nursing centers remain on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they have faced significant financial challenges in their efforts to keep their residents and staff protected from the virus. This funding is critical, not only to facilities’ ongoing response to COVID, but also to ensure measurable advances in quality care can continue,” FHCA executive director Emmett Reed said in a news release.
“With the state’s increasingly growing aging population, our nursing centers need resources to invest in people, technologies and training, as well as infection prevention supplies, to ensure the health, safety and well-being of the residents entrusted to their care. The Governor’s Florida Leads budget is an important step toward helping our nursing centers recover from the challenges brought on by the pandemic.”
“We look forward to working with the Senate and the House as they develop their initial budgets to ensure nursing centers have the funding needed to protect residents and staff from the virus and continue delivering high-quality care that our state’s seniors depend on.”