Florida’s proposed 2023-24 budget includes raises for state employees, funding for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ passion projects and another year with billions of dollars in the state’s rainy day fund.
Florida’s 60-day legislative session is set to conclude Friday, when a vote on the General Appropriations Act and related bills will occur. At this point, the budget is set in stone and can’t be changed. Approval is a foregone conclusion; otherwise, lawmakers would have to go into overtime.
Big-ticket items include money for the state’s response to last year’s hurricanes, a variety of education programs and many millions to address the state’s affordable housing crisis.
Here’s a rundown of those appropriations and others in Florida’s budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1:
$117 billion - the total budget
It marks an almost $5 billion increase from last year’s budget. It consists of $46.5 billion from general revenue and $70.5 billion from trust funds, increases of $2.8 billion and $2.2 billion respectively. And as Democrats like to remind Republicans these days, a lot of that money comes from the federal government, led by President Joe Biden. In fact, federal funding makes up an average of one-third of state budgets.
$10.9 billion - total money in reserves
That’s $2 billion more than last year. Of that reserve money, $5.3 billion is unused from the General Revenue Fund, $4.1 billion is going to the budget stabilization fund or “rainy day fund,” and $1.4 billion is going to the Emergency Preparedness and Response fund.
$27.9 billion - the education budget
It includes appropriations to K-12 and higher education in the state and is the largest policy area subsection in the budget. Questions remain on whether there will be funding issues after legislation passed this session expanded the state’s voucher program to all families. While the legislature estimates it will cost $200-$600 million, some progressive groups have projected it will cost as much as $4 billion.
$4.9 billion - for the Department of Environmental Protection
A $700 million bump from last year, major appropriations include over $570 million for Everglades restoration projects, $1 billion for water quality improvements, and $300 million for the state’s sea level rise and flooding program.
$3.7 billion - for hurricane relief
A large chunk of this spending – about $1.45 billion – was approved during a 2022 special session in response to Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole. New appropriations include $350 million to the Hurricane Ian and Nicole Recovery Grant Program, $181 million to beach and bridge repair projects, and more.
$711 million - for the Live Local Act
A priority of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, the bill allows over $600 million to affordable housing programs and $100 million to Florida’s Hometown Heroes program. The funding comes as Florida is in the middle of an affordable housing crisis.
$400.7 million - for local transportation initiatives
Also known as Road Fund projects, this money goes towards funding road renovations and other transportation projects at the municipal level. Worth noting: The fund is actually receiving about $98 million less than it received last calendar year.
$107.5 million - for the Florida State Guard
This was a big priority for Gov. Ron DeSantis, who revived the State Guard last year. Parts of the allocation include $49.5 million for planes and helicopters, $22.7 million to store those vehicles and $10 million for a new headquarters, according to the Miami Herald.
$25 million - for New College of Florida operational enhancement
This is another item on DeSantis’ wishlist, as he continues his goal of turning the once-progressive liberal arts school into the “Hillsdale of the South.” The injecting of funds comes as the school looks to revamp recruitment efforts and launch an athletics program.
$80 million - for Visit Florida
An increase of $30 million from last year, the House initially proposed to defund the program, which acts as the state’s tourism marketing arm. Its functions will be managed by a different entity this year, the Department of Commerce (which was renamed years ago to the Department of Economic Opportunity). Also, lawmakers this year look poised to finally kill off Enterprise Florida, the state’s business recruitment agency, long derided by House GOP leadership as a dispenser of “corporate welfare.”
$45,760 - new starting salary for correctional officers
The increase comes with still other bonuses for correctional officers, in conjunction with 5% raises for all state employees. The boost happens as Florida has struggled with a yearslong correctional officer shortage. Members of the state’s National Guard have had to be deployed to deal with shortages. Lawmakers hope the salary increase will help in recruiting.
$112.9 million - for internet access
This is for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Funding and Broadband-Digital Capacity Grant Program. Over the past several sessions, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Office of Broadband has focused on fielding federal grants to improve internet access across the state. Aside from the budgeted amount, the office received a grant for $247.8 million from the U.S. Treasury for the Capital Projects Fund Broadband Infrastructure Program late last year.
$3.5 million - for the statewide emergency alert and notification system
Many Floridians no doubt hope this goes toward a study about how 4:45 a.m. system tests are not a good idea. Last month, a test alert went out early in the morning, leading to outrage from people across the state. Everbridge, the company that allowed it to happen, publicly apologized but no matter: Florida has since ended its contract, meaning a new vendor must take its place.