Florida House and Senate leaders kicked off formal negotiations on a new state budget Tuesday night, but they face hundreds of millions of dollars in unexpected costs and less tax revenue than originally thought. According to a story from the News Service of Florida, leaders held an initial conference committee meeting after announcing earlier in the day they had reached an agreement on “allocations,” which are big-picture numbers for the various parts of the budget such as education, health care and criminal justice. House and Senate negotiators will use those numbers to hammer out details of each budget area. Both chambers passed their budget plans back on February 8 for the fiscal year that starts July 1, with the Senate proposing to spend $87.3 billion and the House proposing to spend $87.2 billion.
But, lawmakers are now dealing with unexpected costs and a lower estimate of corporate tax revenue than when the House and Senate approved their budget proposals. The biggest change stems from lawmakers’ plans to spend at least $400 million in response to the recent mass shooting in Parkland. The House and Senate are quickly moving forward with bills that include taking steps to boost school safety and mental-health services. The budget also will be tighter than originally thought because of a revised estimate last week of the state’s corporate income-tax revenue. Analysts said the state is expected now to bring in $167 million less in corporate taxes than estimated earlier. Plus, lawmakers are faced with paying $100 million more in Medicaid expenses than what had been anticipated.
And when it comes to agriculture information provided by Mary Ann Hooks Director Governmental Affairs for the University of Florida/IFAS, notes they have some heavy lifting to do in order get IFAS funding where it needs to be. Most of their budget requests made it into one of the two proposed budgets but only two of them were fully funded.
The House and Senate have less than a week to finish the budget if the legislative session is going to end as scheduled March 9. A legally required 72-hour “cooling off” period means the budget will have to be done by next Tuesday, March 6.