DeSantis unveils $114.4 billion budget for Florida

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Governor Ron DeSantis, a candidate for the Republican nomination for president, has announced his budget plans for Florida for fiscal year 2024-2025. His budget plan, unveiled Tuesday and  called “Focus on Florida’s Future Budget,” totals $114.4 billion, which is over $2 billion lower than the current year’s budget.

Florida residents have mixed reactions to DeSantis’ proposal.

“I thought the governor had a lot of really important things there, things that we can be supportive of and we’ll work through the details,” Republican House Speaker Paul Renner, said in a statement.

Republican, Ralph Hodges said, “DeSantis is a joke. He set aside money to sue for Florida State because they did not get selected in the playoffs. We have homeless people, and he is worried about football because his sons are FSU fans.”

Although not in the proposal, DeSantis announced Tuesday his plans to set aside $1 million in litigation expenses for Florida State University after it was left out of the NCAA football playoffs after having an undefeated football season.

“Floridians are suffering through an insurance crisis,” supporter Tiffany Fletcher said. “Hopefully, this plan is not to get more votes. I like Ron DeSantis. I just hope he handles this issue before it worsens itself.”

Some key points announced in the budget proposal:

Debt reduction: DeSantis committed $455 million to the debt reduction program he established last year.

Maintaining strong reserves: The governor plans to extend Florida’s record of sound fiscal management by providing $16.3 billion in total reserves with money for things like unallocated general revenue, unallocated trust funds, the budget stabilization fund, the emergency preparedness and response fund, and the reinsurance assistance and the Florida optional reinsurance assistance programs.

Taxes: The proposal includes more than $1.1 billion in tax relief. This provides $431 million to lower insurance premiums for homeowners. Also mentioned is taking off sales tax on holidays and $170 million in permanent tax relief for small businesses.

Education: The education portion has numerous amounts of funds allocated for different causes. Including $1.25 billion for salary increases for teachers, $1.6 billion in funding early child education, and a combined $5.4 billion for Florida College and State University systems. Locally, the budget provides $152 million for Florida’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities including $110.5 million in operating funds for Florida A&M University. He also dedicated $180 million for construction projects for certain counties including Wakulla and Gadsden counties.

Environment: The budget prioritizes a clean environment by dedicating funds to restoration projects, combating wildfires, and removing pythons. Restoring Florida’s world-renowned springs and improving state parks.

There’s also a plan for more than $55 million to help improve Florida’s water quality and combat anything harmful like algae.

Transportation: The Focus on Florida Budget includes $15.6 billion for the Florida Department of Transportation, $630 million for the Moving Florida Forward Initiative, and $14.5 billion for the State Transportation Work Program which includes things like highway construction and maintenance, repairs and safety initiatives.

DeSantis by law had to offer a budget to the Legislature at least 30 days before lawmakers begin their session on Jan. 8. The House and Senate are charged with creating and approving a budget to present to the governor, and now the members of those two chambers know what DeSantis’ priorities are for the next fiscal year.