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Early debt repayment could save Florida taxpayers nearly $34 million in interest

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(The Center Square) — Florida taxpayers are set to save millions of dollars after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that some of the Sunshine State’s debt had been paid down early.

A total of $400 million in state debt has been paid back through the Debt Reduction Program, designed to accelerate the payment of bonds before they mature and saving Florida taxpayers almost $34 million in interest.

The state still has, according to its most recent comprehensive financial report, nearly $25 billion in bond debt.

The non-partisan Truth in Accounting’s annual Financial State of the States report says Florida has a total debt of $76 billion, with much of that coming from more than $49 billion of liabilities other than unfunded pension costs ($5.78 billion) or retiree health care costs ($10.47 billion). TIA ranked Florida 18th out of 50 states for its financial position.

The debt repayment program is part of DeSantis’ $116.5 billion Framework for Freedom Budget within the Division of Bond Finance. The division used a total of $200 million which had already been appropriated within the state budget, as well as other available funds to retire $400 million in outstanding taxable bonds.

The Framework for Freedom budget includes a tax relief package for Floridians which is a record $2.7 billion investment in economic development worth over $15 billion and $130 million for targeted pay increases in certain vocations. Over $600 million has been allocated for workforce education funding, and funds to support economic growth in rural communities top $125 million.

DeSantis said in a news release that Florida is leading the way in how to efficiently govern a state through smart fiscal policy and that additional debt has been earmarked to also be paid early later in the 2023-24 fiscal year.

“While Washington has governed irresponsibly and ballooned the national debt, the Free State of Florida is providing a blueprint for fiscal responsibility,” DeSantis said in his statement, adding that leadership prioritizes Floridians in every decision they make.

Since taking office in 2019, approximately $5 billion in state debt has now been paid down by DeSantis, while the national debt has increased by more than $10 trillion. Florida currently has a state budget surplus of over $20 billion and an economy worth around $1 trillion.

Division of Bond Finance Director Ben Watkins also said in the news release that he looked forward to working with DeSantis to explore ways to leverage Florida’s solid economy to further reduce debt in the future.

“Governor DeSantis championed the debt reduction program through the legislative process, and the Division is proud to have delivered on his vision, resulting in an expedited reduction in state debt at a savings to taxpayers,” Watkins said.

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