Strategic use of nonrecurring federal funds, bonuses for pandemic first
responders and teachers – Key investments in child welfare, minimum wage
Senate Bill 2500, the General Appropriations Act, a balanced state budget for the upcoming fiscal year, was finalized this afternoon beginning the constitutionally required 72-hour cooling off period before a vote on Friday, April 30, the final day of the 2021 Regular Session of the Florida Legislature.
Statement by Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby)
“We are certainly in a better place today than when we started our budget planning last summer. Revenue estimates have continued to improve, as have actual month-to-month collections, providing opportunities to offset the significant reductions that we thought would be necessary back in August when we were looking at a $5.4 billion revenue loss.
“I do believe we will continue to see some fluctuation and some uncertainty as our economy recovers. With this reality in mind, our budget utilizes available federal funding to makes some significant nonrecurring investments in key infrastructure priorities that will create jobs and further bolster Florida’s recovering economy. At the same time, these investments allow us to speed up water quality improvements, environmental restoration objectives, and to replenish funds for state highways projects, which declined last year as people spent more time at home due to the pandemic. We also utilized these nonrecurring funds to provide bonuses to state and local first responders, teachers, and child care providers, as well as nearly $1 billion to provide child care assistance for health care employees and emergency responders, among others.
“Despite the influx in nonrecurring funding, we were still working with less revenue to spend on the recurring responsibilities of state government. I am pleased that we were able to use some of our recurring dollars to increase our investment in Florida’s Child Welfare System. This critical funding will help more children find the loving, permanent families they want and need earlier in life. We also took 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.
“We also modernized 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. Aided by nonrecurring federal funds, this recurring state funding creates a framework that will benefit our state for generations to come.”
Statement by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations
“Through a combination of key investments and significant reserves, this budget sets Florida on a responsible path towards a full economic recovery that will leave our state well-prepared to both address potential future challenges and seize upcoming opportunities as more and more people locate here in our great state.
“This budget ensures we live within our means and fund the ongoing, key functions of government with recurring state funds. We appropriate resources to fully fund the Medicaid program, which as a result of the pandemic has over one million additional enrollees for a caseload of 4.7 million Floridians. This comes at an increased cost to the state of more than $1.2 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, and increase our allocation to raise teacher salaries.
“We also recognize that with nonrecurring federal funding, we have a historic opportunity to make investments in Florida’s infrastructure, and we know that investing in infrastructure leads to the good jobs Florida families want and need. We are now able to address the backlog of maintenance issues at our state properties, as well as our education facilities from K-12 to our colleges and universities. We also make tremendous investments in Florida’s environment, from expanding our wildlife corridor, to revitalizing our beaches, and restoring Florida’s Everglades. Florida’s environment is key not only to a full restoration of our tourism industry, but also to the quality of life Floridians enjoy. I’m confident these significant investments will certainly pay dividends, while currently unallocated federal funding will further bolster our reserves in the short term, and can be evaluated again next year.
“In total, this is a 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. I’m grateful to all of our Senators for their input and contributions and believe we have a final work product that reflects the values of the constituents across our great state who trusted us to make these decisions.”
SB 2500 – The General Appropriations Act
The 2021 General Appropriations Act totals $101.5 billion, leaving $6 billion in state reserves, not including federal stimulus funds. The budget accounts for $6.7 billion of the $10 billion in anticipated non-recurring federal pandemic relief funds, the remainder of which will further bolster state reserves.