Gov. DeSantis unveils $114.8B budget plan
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks after signing the $92.2 billion 2020-21 budget Monday during a news conference at the Capitol in Tallahassee. DeSantis vetoed more than $1 billion from the spending plan sent to him by the legislature. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

'Florida — we’re built to succeed now and well into the future.'

Gov. Ron DeSantis is releasing a $114.8 billion spending proposal for next fiscal year, a $3.8 billion increase from the current year, which he said reflects the economic success of Florida despite the headwinds of the COVID-19 pandemic and rampant inflation.

“Florida — we’re built to succeed now and well into the future,” DeSantis told reporters at the Capitol.

The recommended budget is for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Florida lawmakers will consider the plan when they meet for the 60-day Regular Session that starts March 7.

The plan also includes $700 million for state worker pay increases, including a 5% across-the-board pay hike for most employees and a 10% jump for so-called “hard-to-hire” positions. State law enforcement officials would see thousands of dollars in raises as well, on top of the across-the-board pay bump.

DeSantis also wants to continue the $5,000 recruitment bonus for new police officers throughout the state, and raise the starting salary for prison guards to $23 per hour.

The employer contribution to state worker pension plans is increased by 3% and pension payouts are increased by 4% in the plan to account for inflation.

The K-12 schools’ budget would be set at $26 billion, or $8,453 per student, a $205 increase from the current year. That includes $1 billion to pad teacher salaries, a $200 million jump, and $535 million for student transportation, a $20 million increase.

DeSantis said he supports the universal school choice bill, HB 1, pushed by House Speaker Paul Renner, but noted that allowing vouchers to go to parents of students who are already in private school would increase the cost to the state.

“I’m supportive of school choice,” DeSantis said. “It depends on how they do it. I think they’re talking about a cap from people who are already in private whether they can then qualify if they’re already paying without a scholarship.”

A new state investment fund seeded with $100 million would be set up under the plan, with the first 3% of returns going back into the fund, the next 2.5% of returns going to a debt reduction program and any remaining returns would go into general revenue.

DeSantis opposes returning any of the COVID-19 relief money provided by the federal government back to Uncle Sam, as U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, DeSantis’ predecessor, has asked states to do. DeSantis’ budget plan would spend more than $400 million in federal COVID-19 aid.

“How much of a dent would that make in the debt? I mean seriously,” DeSantis said. “I appreciate when federal folks are concerned about how we’re managing this — why don’t they get their house in order? Why don’t they stop spending so much of our money?”

Gray Rohrer


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