Key investments in child welfare, minimum wage – New infrastructure plan mitigates impacts of sea level rise, provides affordable housing options, enhances wastewater programs
The Florida Senate today unanimously passed Senate Bill 2500, the General Appropriations Act, a proposed state budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, and also passed the implementing bill and conforming bills associated with a balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Statement by Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby)
“We certainly received some great news yesterday with regard to improved revenue estimates. However, we have been working on this budget and analyzing estimates and collections for many months and we know that there will continue to be some fluctuation and some uncertainty as our economy continues to recover. With these realities in mind, our budget makes some difficult choices in order to appropriately fund recurring needs with recurring dollars. Looking ahead, our final budget will incorporate, contingent upon receipt, portions of the nonrecurring federal revenue that we expect to receive from the American Rescue Plan.
“Our budget includes a $50 million increase in our investment in Florida’s Child Welfare System. Government makes a horrible parent and this critical funding will help more children find the loving, permanent families they want and need earlier in life. We also take the first big step towards increasing the minimum wage for our state workers, bringing 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.
“Among other priorities, our budget modernizes our documentary stamp distributions to dedicate a steady stream of funding in three key areas of infrastructure – affordable housing, wastewater, and mitigating sea-level rise. We also provide funding for the South Florida Water Management, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to expedite implementation of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project. These are key infrastructure investments that require a comprehensive, long-term approach, and I am pleased to see this budget establish this important framework.”
Statement by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations
“In the last year, before we even take into account the most recent stimulus, the federal government has already infused more than $70 billion into our economy for state and local governments, paycheck protection loans, unemployment compensation, aid for K-12 schools to conduct remote learning and then to safely reopen, aid for universities to support students and facilitate remote learning transitions and importantly, for our hospitals and health care providers to serve and treat those impacted by COVID-19. While the newest revenue estimates give us every reason to be very optimistic, it is impossible to know where we would be today without this infusion of funds, just as it is difficult to predict with certainty how our economy will respond to the most recent round of stimulus dollars, or on an ongoing basis, post pandemic.
“For this reason, we crafted a budget that ensures we live within our means and fund the recurring, key functions of government with recurring state funds, setting aside significant reserves in case revenues drop. Specifically, we reduced spending by $2.5 billion, leaving $5 billion in state reserves. We did not include the more than $10 billion in anticipated non-recurring federal pandemic relief funds. These funds cannot be spent on recurring functions of government. Moving forward as we work with the House and Governor DeSantis on a final budget for our state, our plan is to appropriate portions of the $10 billion in federal relief funds on a contingent basis that will allow a significant portion of these funds to be dispersed to key nonrecurring investments through existing state programs, with the remaining funds further bolstering our reserves.
“We appropriate resources to fully fund 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. We also fully fund the KidCare program serving 229,000 children with high quality health insurance. In education, we maintain an unprecedented level of per student funding for K-12 education, including a $500 million allocation to raise teacher salaries. We also fully fund the Bright Futures Scholarship Program, and other important need and merit-bases student financial aid.
“In total, this is the responsible, forward-thinking budget we need at this critical time that will keep our state well-positioned to bounce back from COVID-19 better than ever before.”
SB 2500 – The General Appropriations Act
The Senate budget totals $95 billion, leaving $5 billion in state reserves. The budget does not include the more than $10 billion in anticipated non-recurring federal pandemic relief funds, which are currently under review and will be addressed as the Senate works with the Florida House of Representatives to pass a final budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
The Senate budget was crafted in keeping with the following revenue estimates. 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.
Yesterday, the Conference made sizeable adjustments to the forecast adopted in December. Anticipated revenues were revised upward by $1.475 billion in FY 2020-21 and by $550.8 million in FY 2021-22, for a two-year combined increase of $2.026 billion. This revised estimate will help inform decision making moving forward as the final budget, implementing, and conforming bills are developed in partnership with the Florida House of Representatives.