Budget conference: Workforce support spending pushed off as lawmakers eye IT re-eval
Jay Trumbull and Kelli Stargel. Image via Colin Hackley.

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The House initially wanted $150 million for workforce support modernization, but lawmakers are going a different route.

State budget negotiators have scrapped a plan to continue spending tens of millions to modernize Florida’s workforce system. Instead, the House’s lead negotiator says there will be a larger reevaluation of how the state approaches data management.

The House’s initial budget proposal included $150 million to continue improving the “consumer-first workforce system,” the state agency integration project. Despite House negotiators dropping their request to $91.8 million in an offer Thursday, the Senate stood firm, and the House eliminated the spending entirely in its offer delivered late Friday.

Budget beancounters, including House Appropriations Committee Chair Jay Trumbull, last year approved a one-time infusion of $100 million to get the agency integration project off the ground. However, Trumbull’s comments to reporters Friday evening suggested the Legislature may be reviewing its strategy.

“What we’re probably going to end up looking at is how we look at data and IT issues holistically in the budget,” Trumbull said. “I wouldn’t necessarily look at this one particular issue as being a sticking point. I think it’s more — as we move forward and look at all the agencies and all the silos as a whole — how we tackle IT issues.”

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Kelli Stargel is taking the lead on budget negotiations for that chamber. A spokeswoman for the Senate said the item hasn’t necessarily been “zeroed out” but that IT issues would be addressed later in budget negotiations.

Lawmakers last year passed legislation to overhaul the state’s workforce efforts, a priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker Chris Sprowls. That was part of the bill establishing the Reimagining Education and Career Help (REACH) Act.

“The system aims to improve coordination among the required one-stop partners to efficiently and effectively provide workforce and education programs and services in Florida,” according to the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).

House economic development negotiators, led by Pace Republican Rep. Jayer Williamson, argued DEO needs additional funding to improve the integration. Without the additional funds, DEO would have to use holdover spending from last year.

In order to coordinate the effort, the REACH Act dictated a new REACH Office in the Office of the Governor to streamline all of the access points to education and career help across Florida’s workforce resources in the Department of Economic Opportunity, the Department of Education and CareerSource. CareerSource is the statewide workforce service composed of business and government leaders charged with guiding workforce development in the state.

The REACH Act also requires Florida’s workforce agencies to collaborate with business and industry leaders to create a state-approved list of credentials to align training with workforce demands. Job tracks in high-demand fields will be supported by a new Open Door Workforce Grant Program, which received a $35 million appropriation.

Lawmakers have until Tuesday to finalize the budget in order to pass it by the scheduled end of Session.

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.



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