Florida Has a New Budget ... ... and It’s Bigger Than Ever
Monday, May 12, 2014
Posted by: Jon Shiver
by Bob Levy, Robert M. Levy & Associates
Each year the Florida Legislature is required to approve a balanced state
budget. This year our state legislators passed the budget on the closing day of
session, right before they adjourned sine
die. The following summary comes via the Associated Press.
The Senate passed the budget unanimously
while the House vote was 102-15.
The new budget is 3.5 percent higher than
last year’s budget and includes a boost in funding for schools, child welfare
and projects to battle water pollution.
Legislators came into the annual session
with a $1.2 billion budget surplus. They used part of the surplus to pay for
$500 million in tax and fee cuts, including a rollback in auto registration
fees. But the extra money also enabled them to spread it around on dozens of
hometown projects. The budget heads next to Gov. Rick Scott, who can veto
individual spending items.
Highlights From State’s $77.1
Here are 10 things to know about the
Total: The final budget is nearly $77.1
billion, an increase of $2.6 billion from last year. It covers spending
starting July 1 through June 30, 2015.
Welfare: The state’s child welfare
agency is getting nearly $50 million for child protection efforts, including
hiring nearly 300 employees to help bring down the number of cases handled by
Development: VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s
tourism marketing arm, got an increase in funding from $63 million to $74
million. Gov. Rick Scott had asked for $100 million.
Environment: Legislators set aside $170 million for projects intended
to help the Indian River Lagoon and other water bodies dealing with discharges
from Lake Okeechobee. There’s also $30 million to protect Florida’s springs and
$25 million for beach restoration.
Care: The budget increased overall
spending on Medicaid, the state’s safety net program, but the budget does not
include any federal aid to expand Medicaid eligibility to roughly 1 million
Floridians. Legislators have also set aside money to provide services to 1,260
disabled people on a waiting list.
Insurance: Florida legislators kept
intact low-cost health insurance for legislative staff, Gov. Rick Scott and
other top state officials. Scott, a multimillionaire, pays less than $400 a
year for family coverage. He had recommended raising the cost. Legislators pay
the same higher rate as other rank-and-file state workers.
Schools: The budget boosts spending for public schools by $575
million and would increase per-student funding by about $176. But the increase
in school funding relies on a nearly $400 million rise in local property taxes.
The new budget includes nearly $600 million in money for construction projects
for public schools, universities and colleges. That total includes $75 million
for charter schools.
Workers: There are no across-the-board
pay raises in this year’s budget. Legislators did include a 5 percent pay raise
for highway patrol troopers and other state law enforcement officers. There are
also pay increases for court employees and assistant prosecutors and public
Taxes: Lawmakers agreed to cut taxes and fees by $500 million
as part of the budget package. The fee cuts include a rollback of auto
registration fees. But legislators have also agreed to a three-day
back-to-school sales tax holiday. Shoppers in August will be to purchase
clothes and school supplies tax free during that period. Legislators have also
agreed to sales tax holidays for energy-efficient appliances and hurricane
For a full recap of
bills that passed during the 2014 Legislative Session, download the PDF here.