(NSF/TALLAHASSEE, FL) — Dubbing it the “framework for freedom,” Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday proposed a nearly 115-billion-dollar budget for next year that includes a variety of tax cuts and more money for such things as teacher pay. The budget for the current year, which started July 1st, totaled 110 billion after DeSantis signed it and issued vetoes.
As he released the new proposal, DeSantis touted the state’s economy and large budget reserves that could help clear the way for tax cuts and increased spending on programs.
“This is a big deal, in terms of this budget. I think it is going to meet the needs of the people of Florida. It’s only possible because we have been a state that’s been able to thrive over these last few years, and we are going to continue those policies going forward.”
Some key issues in the proposal include one billion dollars for public-school teacher salaries, 1.1 billion for Everglades restoration and water-quality issues, a five percent across-the-board pay increase for state workers and 1.5 billion dollars in tax relief.
DeSantis’ proposal is buoyed by higher-than-expected tax revenues and federal stimulus money given to the state during the COVID-19 pandemic. That combination has helped build reserves that DeSantis and lawmakers can tap.
The proposal is an initial step as lawmakers prepare to negotiate a budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year during the legislative session that will start March 7th.
Here are some key issues in the proposal:
The proposal would earmark $1 billion for public-school teacher salaries, a $200 million increase from the current year. DeSantis also would not raise tuition for state college and university students and wants to spend $100 million to recruit and retain faculty members.
The budget includes $1.1 billion for Everglades restoration and water-quality issues, including $614 million for the Everglades, according to the governor’s office. As an example of other projects, the proposal includes $100 million for a program to help clean up the Indian River Lagoon, where poor water quality has resulted in such things as hundreds of manatee deaths.
The proposal includes 5 percent across-the-board pay increases for state workers and additional money for targeted jobs. For instance, the proposal seeks to increase starting pay for correctional officers to $23 an hour, as the state tries to curb high turnover among prison workers.
DeSantis said the proposal includes $2 billion in tax relief, though that includes $500 million that was approved by the Legislature in a December special session to give bill credits to frequent users of toll roads. Other parts of the package include a permanent sales-tax exemption for baby and toddler needs, such as clothing and shoes; a one-year sales-tax exemption on certain household items, such as laundry detergent and toilet paper; and two back-to-school sales-tax “holidays.”
(From The News Service of Florida)