GOP senators voice concerns over DeSantis’ budget

Senate Appropriations Committee meeting on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of

The Florida Senate Committee on Appropriations met Tuesday morning at the Capitol.

Chris Spencer, director of the governor’s Office of Policy and Budget, started off the meeting with a presentation giving an update on federal assistance related to COVID-19.

“Florida is the direct recipient of $8.1 billion for programs administered at the state level,” Spencer said. “$2.5 billion of this amount was awarded directly to counties whose population is 500,000 or greater.”

Spencer gave recommendations for the 2021-2022 state budget.

“The ‘Florida Leads’ budget totals $96.6 billion, which is a $4.3 billion increase over the current year,” Spencer said. “Health and human services continue to represent the largest portion of the budget with $42.5 billion. The governor’s budget makes strategic reductions of more than $1.1 billion over the current year and the next fiscal year. Governor DeSantis is committed to continuing to ease Floridians tax burden and the budget proposes to cut taxes by $65 million.”

After Spencer’s presentation, Senator Aaron Bean, a Republican from Nassau County, had questions.

“Do we anticipate more money coming from the federal government?” Bean asked. “You also have a big number for opioid treatment and rehab. Can you talk about the additional money over the $119 million that we know is coming from the federal government?”

Spencer didn’t go into much detail but promised Bean and his colleagues more information after Tuesday’s meeting.

“This budget when it was developed does not anticipate any future receipt of any federal funds,” Spencer said. “In fact, there’s already been some changes that have happened even since the governor released this budget. There’s been an increase in the amount of funds the state is receiving for opioids. I’d be happy to provide for your office a breakdown of that and how the $119 million is factored in.”

Committee chairman Doug Broxson, a Republican from the western Panhandle, also had questions for Spencer.

“I hate to say the word missing but we have 88,000 students that did not register in the fall for school,” Broxson said. “We’re assuming that they’re not missing, that they’re out there some place so how did you calculate that into the budget?”

Spencer assured Broxson that improvements will be made to that part of the budget once more data is calculated.

“So, the most recent estimating conference assumed that number to be zero because there was no methodology to support any amount above zero or less than 100%,” Spencer said. “I think that between now and over the next few months the goal is that as the school districts are trying to find these kids and get them back into school, we will have a better understanding of how many of these kids are coming in.”

With more Senate meetings to come, the committee will continue to look over the budget to make sure, senators said, that it best serves the people of the state of Florida.