The House is set to pass its $97 billion spending plan for the coming fiscal year.
Members gave their initial OK to their budget proposal, coming hours after the Senate passed its $95 billion plan. If the House passes its budget on Thursday as planned, that will set the table for conferences — budget deliberations between the chambers.
“The House budget shows our members’ commitment to our environment, our families and our communities,” House budget chief Jay Trumbull said. “This balanced budget reflects our belief that the state should not spend more than it takes in and makes strategic investments in Florida’s future.”
Included in the House budget is a plan to use a portion of federal COVID-19 relief funds to help locate students that haven’t been showing up to school during the pandemic. That isn’t included in the Senate budget.
However, unlike the House plan, the Senate budget doesn’t yet incorporate any federal relief funds approved through the American Rescue Plan. Florida is expected to receive $10.2 billion in relief over the next year.
State economists last summer predicted a budget shortfall of $5.4 billion for both the current and coming fiscal years combined, compared to pre-pandemic estimates. An estimate released in December showed the state recovering $2.1 billion of those anticipated losses.
The Governor and the Legislature based their budgets on those forecasts. But the latest forecast, released Tuesday, shows the state recovering another $2 billion over the current and coming fiscal years. That’s reduced the projected shortfall since the January 2020 estimate to $1.3 billion.
Florida’s unemployment rate, which is recovering faster than the national average, also makes House leadership optimistic.
Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ initial budget, announced in January, totaled $96.6 billion. Since President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act, the Governor has so far outlined how he wants to spend more than $4 billion of the additional $10.2 billion. That includes $1,000 bonuses for first responders and teachers.
The current year’s budget amounts to $92.2 billion after DeSantis’ vetoes issued in June.
About $4.4 billion in the House budget, nearly all of the increase compared to the current year, is on account of Florida’s Medicaid rolls ballooning by 733,000 enrollees during the pandemic.
The Senate proposes consolidating state prisons to eliminate one prison. The House plan takes a different approach, giving the Department of Corrections the option to eliminate up to two prisons.