Key Investments in Child Welfare and Minimum Wage,
Responsibly Plans for Florida’s Future with Significant Reserves
The Florida Senate Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), today released Senate Proposed Bill 2500, the General Appropriations Act, a proposed state budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, as well as the implementing bill and conforming bills associated with a balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
“We have a constitutional responsibility to pass a balanced budget in good times, and in difficult times. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, revenues that fund our day-to-day government are down, and we know we have some big expenses on the horizon, which means we had to make difficult choices throughout the budget,” said Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby).
“When we started planning this budget, we were looking at a $5 billion drop in revenues from pre-pandemic levels. In the months since, while we have seen some positive improvements, we are also seeing significant fluctuations in the estimates, and it is clear to me that we do not yet have a full view of the long-term adjustments to our economy as a result of the pandemic,” said Chair Stargel. “Since those estimates, we also have seen the newest round of federal stimulus signed into law. While this is very helpful funding for one-time investments, and further bolstering our reserves, these funds are non-recurring and cannot be spent on recurring functions of government. For this reason, our budget sets aside significant reserves.”
At the August General Revenue Estimating Conference, the first following the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, staff representatives from the Senate, House, Executive Office of the Governor and the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research estimated a $5.4 billion revenue loss over the 2020-21 and 2021-22 fiscal years. An estimate in December 2020 restored $2.1 billion, leaving a $3.3 billion loss compared to pre-pandemic estimates. For Fiscal Year 2021-22, the estimate of recurring general revenue is $1.4 billion below pre-pandemic estimates.
“In total we reduced spending by $2.5 billion over the two years. We fully funded the Medicaid program, which as a result of the pandemic has over 730,000 additional enrollees for a caseload of 4.5 million Floridians. This comes at an increased cost to the state of more than $1 billion,” continued Chair Stargel. “Last year, we were all pleased to pass an unprecedented level of per student funding for K-12 education, including a $500 million allocation to raise teacher salaries. Given all that our students, teachers, and schools have been through in the last year, I’m pleased to see this budget maintain these levels.”
“For me, one of the bright spots is the $50 million increase in our investment for our child welfare system. This is an investment that can’t wait. We know that even modest investments in the life of a child now will make a huge difference in the long run. Also, we are taking the first big step towards increasing the minimum wage for our state workers. Our budget brings wages up to $13 per hour more than three years in advance of the timeline outlined in the constitutional amendment that passed last fall, which will benefit more than 10,000 state workers. Businesses across Florida are working to implement this amendment in the midst of a pandemic, and state government should lead by example,” continued President Simpson.
The Senate proposed budget totals $95 billion, leaving $5 billion in state reserves. The budget does not include more than $10 billion in anticipated non-recurring federal pandemic relief funds, which are currently under review and will be addressed later in session.
A full summary of SPB 2500 by subcommittee is attached. The legislation will be considered by the Senate Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday, March 31, 2021.