Florida lawmakers flubbed their finish and will now move into an overtime session on Saturday. The glitch: the massive $91.1 billion state budget for 2019-20.
House and Senate members agreed on the final spending plans on Tuesday night but were unable to print a budget until 1:32 p.m. Wednesday. The publication of the budget bill (SB 2500) started the constitutionally mandated 72-hour cooling-off period before the final vote. The budget vote will now occur on Saturday afternoon, ending the 2019 session.
The budget deal trims back some of the more ambitious spending plans of first-year Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had advanced a $91.3 billion spending plan.
DeSantis wanted $100 million for the Florida Forever environmental land-buying program. But lawmakers slashed his request to $33 million for the new budget year, which starts July 1.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, a Clay County Republican, says the budget exceeds DeSantis’ overall request in environmental spending with a $682 million initiative. It includes more than $322 million for the restoration of the Everglades-Lake Okeechobee system and $100 million for the state’s natural springs.
The budget also exceeds DeSantis’ request for public school funding, with a $243 per-student boost.
But lawmakers only came up with $284 million for the governor’s “best and brightest” teacher bonus program. He wanted $423 million.
DeSantis also wanted full funding for the state’s affordable housing program. But the new budget sweeps more than $130 million out of the real-estate taxes set aside for the program, leaving about $200 million. It includes $77 million for statewide housing programs, with another $115 million targeted to counties damaged by Hurricane Michael last year.
The budget includes $250,000 for legal fees for the state Department of Education. House Appropriations Chairman Travis Cummings, a Clay County Republican, says the money could be used by the department to defend expected legal challenges of “school choice” laws, including the Legislature’s recent decision to expand the use of publicly funded scholarships to send students to private schools.