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Budget passed by Florida House would be 3.5% less than this year’s outlay

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(The Center Square) — The Florida House approved a $115.5 billion state budget this week that could provide appropriations for infrastructure and education, pay down debt and improve access to health care.

According to a news release from Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, the proposed budget, House Bill 5001, allocates $28.4 billion into PreK-12 funding, a $1.8 billion increase compared to the current year. Higher education would also receive $350 million to restore performance-based incentive funding.

The proposed $115.5 billion budget almost meets Gov. Ron DeSantis’ budget recommendation of $114.4 billion. In total, the upcoming budget is 3.5% less than the present year’s outlay.

The proposed budget would make significant investments towards protecting Florida’s natural resources, including beach restoration, protecting the Everglades, and water resources with an appropriation of $1.4 billion. Drinking water and wastewater revolving loan programs would be allocated $770 million, while resiliency projects and grants would receive $220 million.

During budgetary debate on Thursday, state Rep. Lindsay Cross, D-St. Petersburg, stated that while there are a lot of good things in the budget, there needs to be more investment made into protecting Florida’s natural resources.

“One place that we can do better… is increasing our commitment to maintaining working landscapes and agriculture,” Cross said. “Currently, we’re seeing a 66% decrease in that funding from last year.”

The Florida KidCare program would be allocated an investment of $224 million, while $805 million would be invested into Medicaid caseloads and price level increases. Sickle cell research would receive $10 million, while $100 million would be invested into fighting the opioid epidemic.

To retire state debt early, the budget would provide $600 million while maintaining a reserve of $12.1 billion, including $6.4 billion in unallocated General Revenue funds, $5 billion in the Budget Stabilization Fund, and $700 million for emergency preparedness.

Resiliency projects and grants would be allocated $220 million while $250 million would be budgeted for hardening homes and condominiums against adverse weather events. The Florida Department of Transport Work Program would be funded at $14.2 billion to handle the increase in tourism to the Sunshine State.

Lawmakers also would appropriate $7.1 billion into the justice system, including $22 million in local law enforcement support grants, $100 million into technological and capital improvements and $16.4 million in inmate wellness initiatives.

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