Gov. Ron DeSantis introduces “Bolder, Brighter” annual budget
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Gov. Ron DeSantis introduces “Bolder, Brighter” annual budget

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Florida’s first “Green Governor” Ron DeSantis has unveiled his FY 2020-2021 “Bolder, Brighter, Better Future” for the state of Florida.

“My budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2020-2021 builds on our successes of the past year, placing emphasis where it is needed while remaining fiscally responsible to Florida taxpayers,” said Governor DeSantis. “The budget includes key investments in our K-12 education system, our environment and the well-being of our residents, while recommending over $480 million in savings and over $300 million in tax relief. Although there is still more we can do to improve our state, which we hope to accomplish through this budget, Florida’s future has never been bolder, brighter or better than it is today.”

DeSantis’ office put out a comprehensive summary of several key issues that the governor has focused on, including Education and the Environment.

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Here they are:

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Savings and Tax Relief

The total recommendation for the FY 2020-2021 budget is $91.4 billion. The budget recommends $480.5 million in savings – such as administrative efficiencies and elimination of earmarks.

The budget places $5.6 billion in total reserves, including $1.4 billion of General Revenue, which is more than 6 percent of the total budget and more than $200 million more than the current year budget.

The budget also includes more than $300 million in tax relief, including a $56 million 8-day Back to School Sales Tax Holiday, a 10-day Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday and property tax relief of over $247 million.

Education

The Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget makes historic investments in the state’s education system, including $22.9 billion for the Florida Education Finance Program (FEDP), an increase of over $1 billion.

This includes over $900 million to recruit and retain the best classroom teachers and principals in Florida. Over $600 million is included to raise the minimum salary for full-time classroom teachers to $47,500, which would provide more than 101,000 teachers with a pay raise. Additionally, $300 million is recommended for the Florida Classroom Teacher and Principal Bonus programs.

The budget invests $25 million in key workforce development initiatives: $10 million for the Pathways to Careers Opportunities Grant Program, $10 million for the Work Florida Student Success Incentive Fund at State Colleges and $5 million for the Work Florida Student Success Incentive Fund at District Postsecondary Programs.

The budget recommends an increase of funding of more than $22 million for Florida college and nearly $24 million for Florida universities, all while maintaining no increase in tuition.

Environment

The budget continues Governor DeSantis’ focus on Florida’s environment and builds on the success of last year. The budget includes more than $625 million in recurring funding for Everglades restoration and the protection of vital water resources, positioning Florida to be able to reach the Governor’s goal of investing $2.5 billion over four years.

Included in the more than $625 million investment is more than $322 million for Everglades restoration projects, $150 million for water quality improvements, $50 million for springs restoration and more than $22 million to combat the harmful effects of algal blooms and red tide.

The budget also invests $50 million in beach nourishment to address Florida’s critically eroded shorelines, nearly $9 million in coral reef protection funding, as well as $154 million to protect Florida’s prized properties and water: $100 million for the Florida Forever Program and $54 million in new funding for state parks.

Health and Human Services

The budget makes significant investments in the well-being of Floridians and protecting the most vulnerable. Over $54 million is recommended to continue fighting the opioid epidemic, and $17 million is provided in new mental health and substance abuse funding. 

In an effort to increase accountability, the Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget invests over $97 million to provide funding for services to children and families through Florida’s child welfare system.

The budget provides $6.4 million in new funding to support the Office of Public and Professional Guardianship, as well as $10 million in funding to enrich the needs of seniors in Florida’s communities and enhance the quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia and ending abuse, neglect and exploitation of seniors.

To ensure Florida’s veterans are receiving the care they deserve, the budget invests $18.2 million for the completion of the Ardie R. Copas State Veterans’ Nursing Home in St. Lucie County and the Lake Baldwin State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Orange County, as well as $6.7 million for capital improvements, equipment updates and additional nursing staff for Florida’s existing state veteran nursing homes. 

Transportation and Economic Development

While Florida’s economy remains strong, finding affordable housing can still be a challenge. The budget provides $387 million to fully fund Workforce and Affordable Housing Programs: $119.8 million for the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) Program and $267.2 million for the State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP) Program.

As Florida’s population continues to increase, key investments must be made to handle this growth and ensure continued efficiency. The budget provides $8.8 billion for the State Transportation Work Program, including $2.8 billion for highway construction, $865.7 million in lane resurfacing and $436.2 million in scheduled repairs and replacement of bridges.

The Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget includes $50 million for the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to provide funding for job training and public infrastructure projects that support growth and employment in Florida.

Hurricane Recovery

For the two most recent hurricanes to strike Florida, Irma and Michael, the State of Florida is projected to spend over $1.9 billion on hurricane-related expenses – $627.8 million for Hurricane Irma and $1.3 billion so far for Hurricane Michael.

The Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget includes $25 million through the Hurricane Michael Recovery Grant Program for the repair and replacement of critical infrastructure and to improve the capacity of emergency services.

Public Safety

Early in his term, Governor DeSantis directed Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Commissioner Rick Swearingen to develop a threat assessment strategy to identify and prevent threats of mass violence. Building on this, the budget includes over $4.5 million to implement the first Statewide Behavior Threat Assessment strategy in the country.

The budget also invests more than $14.5 million to expand and enhance FDLE’s crime databases that the department uses daily to investigate crimes and apprehend criminals.

Governor DeSantis is recommending over $89.7 million and additional staffing at the Florida Department of Corrections for needed improvements, including retention bonuses and a pilot program to transition correctional officers from a 12-hour shift to an 8.5-hour shift.

Elections Security

With the 2020 elections getting closer, the Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget recommends $6.6 million for state-level election oversight activities, with a focus on cybersecurity enhancements to Florida’s election system.

Includes in this funding is $1.3 million for ten positions dedicated to cyber security who will provide local Supervisors of Elections with support and recommendations to combat cyber threats. Also included is $1.4 million for voter registration list maintenance services and voter outreach through the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC).

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Javier Manjarres is a nationally renowned award-winning South Florida-based political journalist owns Diverse New Media, Corp. which publishes Floridianpress.com, Judicialpost.com, shark-tank.com, and Hispolitica.com He enjoys traveling, playing soccer, mixed martial arts, weight-lifting, swimming and biking. He ran as a Republican in the 2018 congressional primary race in Florida's CD 22. Javier is also a political consultant, and has also authored "BROWN PEOPLE," which is a book about Hispanic Politics. Learn more at www.brownpeople.org Email him at [email protected]

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