Lawmakers finalize $101.5B budget with time to spare
Jay Trumbull and Kelli Stargel. Image via Jason Delgado.

It's the first budget in state history to top $100 billion.

The Legislature’s budget negotiators on Tuesday finalized their changes to the 2021-22 fiscal year budget, keeping lawmakers on track to approve the bill before the end of the Session.

The budget (SB 2500) will total more than $101.5 billion, bolstered by billions in federal aid Florida is expected to receive this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawmakers set the budget bill on the desk at 12:06 p.m., meaning they could vote on it beginning that time Friday. Friday marks the 60th and final day of the 2021 Legislative Session.

Florida looks like it will receive $10.2 billion from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan President Joe Biden signed in March. Lawmakers agreed to spend $6.7 billion of that while saving the rest for reserves.

Before considering the federal aid, the Senate’s proposed budget hit $97 billion. Meanwhile, the House outlined a $97 billion budget while the Senate outlined a $95 billion budget.

With a mid-Session revision to the state’s general revenue projections that gave lawmakers $2 billion more to play with for the current and coming fiscal year, Senate President Wilton Simpson said Florida is in a better place than it looked in August. Back then, the state was looking at a $5.4 billion shortfall over the two-year period because of the pandemic.

“I do believe we will continue to see some fluctuation and some uncertainty as our economy recovers,” he said in a statement. “With this reality in mind, our budget utilizes available federal funding to makes some significant nonrecurring investments in key infrastructure priorities that will create jobs and further bolster Florida’s recovering economy.”

Before the budget conference began, chief negotiators Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Jay Trumbull anticipated the final budget would top $100 billion. But the federal aid is a one-time award.

“That’s probably not going to be an expectation for future generations that they’re going to be able to maintain a $100 billion budget,” Stargel said.

Last year’s budget totaled $93.2 billion before Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed $1 billion of it to brace for the pandemic.

This year, the Governor proposed a $96.6 billion budget before the federal government rolled out the American Rescue Plan.

Among his top priorities was an additional $50 million to continue raising teacher salaries to a base minimum salary of $47,500 annually. Lawmakers wrote that additional allocation into their budget.

Lawmakers also look primed to approve $50 million for the Job Growth Grant Fund to support local infrastructure and job training projects targeted toward economic recovery and development, another of DeSantis’ priorities.

After the federal government finalized its stimulus plan, DeSantis outlined proposals to give teachers and first responders $1,000 bonus checks for their work during the pandemic. Lawmakers agreed to that spending in the final stages of the budget conference.

The budget will put Florida on a path toward full economic recovery, Stargel said in a statement.

“This budget ensures we live within our means and fund the ongoing, key functions of government with recurring state funds,” she said.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

One comment

  • Ron Ogden

    April 27, 2021 at 3:41 pm

    On time, with funds for needed programs and local projects. Even Democrats got some stuff. This is what is meant by the term “good government”. Credit Simpson, Sprowls, DeSantis and Republicans from Escambia to Monroe.

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