Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed $3.1 billion in spending Thursday as he signed the 2023 fiscal year budget, which still leaves $109.9 billion in place, with increases in nearly every facet of the budget.
Federal COVID-19 recovery stimulus funds, a swiftly rebounding economy and inflation that has boosted the cost of goods — and therefore sales taxes — helped swell the state’s coffers. That led lawmakers, prodded by DeSantis, to give raises to teachers, prison guards and law enforcement officers.
Senate President Wilton Simpson led a push to raise the minimum wage for state employees from $13 to $15 per hour, four years ahead of the $15 minimum wage mandated for all Florida workers by 2026 via a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2018. Moreover, all state workers, most of whom have had their salaries held largely flat by the Legislature over the last decade, will receive a 5.4% pay hike.
The budget has $24.3 billion for K-12 schools, a $1.7 billion increase on the current year. That works out to $8,143 per student, about $385 more than the current year. It includes $800 million to boost teacher salaries, an increase of $250 million over the current year.
The whopping $3.1 billion veto list includes the $1 billion fund the Legislature set up to pay for additional costs state agencies incur next year due to inflation. DeSantis also wiped away $645 million for a new prison and $195 million for a new prison hospital.
A new courthouse for the 2nd District Court of Appeal that was set at $15 million was axed, as was $50 million for a courthouse in the newly created 6th DCA. The $30 million for the University of Florida’s new music building, $20 million for the Moffitt Pasco County Life Science Park and $20 million to buy new state airplanes also were nixed by DeSantis.
The Tampa Bay Rays will also miss out on $35 million for a training facility thanks to DeSantis’ veto.
The main budget bill, HB 5001, received only three “no” votes in either chamber: from Miami Democratic Reps. Mike Grieco and Dotie Joseph, and Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini of Howey-in-the-Hills. The $109.9 billion spending plan is about $8 billion more than the current year, about a 9% increase.