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Florida lawmakers look for compromise on state’s $115B budget


(The Center Square) — As Florida’s regular session comes to a close next week, the Legislature has been working on finalizing the state’s budget, which would likely add up to more than $115 billion for fiscal 2024-25.

The budget conferences began this week, and both the House and Senate are negotiating the differences between the two chamber’s budgets, the House is proposing a total budget of $115.547 billion, while the Senate is proposing a total budget of $115.939 billion.

To cover the cost, just over $47 billion would come from the general revenue fund, more than $30 billion from state trust funds and approximately $38 billion would come from federal funds. Big-ticket items in the budget that the Legislature agrees on include an estimated $35.3 billion for Medicaid spending and a 3% pay raise for state employees.

Other big-ticket items include a total of $10.1 billion for conservation efforts and agriculture, $7.3 billion for criminal and civil justice, and $20 billion for tourism, transportation, and economic development.

In total, public schools would receive a funding package of $28.3 billion, allocated in the state’s General Appropriations Act, including a 2.5% per student increase that was agreed upon by both chambers.

In the Senate’s budget summary, early learning services would receive a total of $1.65 billion, with the School Readiness Program poised to receive the bulk of the funding with an allocation of $1.13 billion, while the rest is spread across various early learning programs.

Governor Ron DeSantis announced his Focus on Florida’s Future budget recommendations in December and has an estimated budget of $114.4 billion, a decrease of $4.6 billion from 2023’s fiscal budget. DeSantis’ recommendations also included tax relief for Floridians that would top $1.1 billion.

The House and Senate are currently at odds with tax relief, with the House proposing a tax relief package of $817.4 million, while the Senate has a total tax relief package of $848.5 million. These packages include sales tax holidays speckled throughout the 2024-25 fiscal year and a short-term insurance premium tax reduction for residential properties.

The budget must be settled by March 5 to allow for the required 72-hour “cooling off” period before the Legislature can vote on a final budget and close the 2024 session as scheduled on March 8.