TALLAHASSEE ---The House and Senate on Friday rolled out state budget proposals for the upcoming fiscal year, with the plans hundreds of millions of dollars apart and higher than the current year’s budget.
The Senate wants to spend $90.3 billion during the fiscal year that starts July 1, while the House is proposing an $89.9 billion budget. Both legislative chambers are pitching smaller plans than Gov. Ron DeSantis’ $91.3 billion proposal --- the highest in state history.
Lawmakers passed an $88.7 billion budget for the current fiscal year.
The release of the budget proposals Friday came after House and Senate subcommittees issued pieces of the spending plans earlier in the week. The proposals are an initial step in a process that will lead to legislative leaders negotiating a final budget before the scheduled May 3 end of the annual legislative session.
Appropriations committees in both chambers will take up the proposals next week and likely will make changes before sending the spending plans to the full House and Senate.
Along with the difference between the House and Senate on a bottom-line budget number, several areas have emerged during the past week as important issues in the looming budget talks.
For example, the Senate wants a $1.1 billion increase next year in a key part of the budget for public schools, while the House is proposing a $579.3 million boost. Also, the two chambers will have to bridge differences on issues such as health care, tourism marketing and environmental projects.
DeSantis has made a priority of environmental and water-quality projects, pitching a $625 million proposal for next year. The Senate’s budget proposal includes $656 million for Everglades restoration and water-quality efforts and the House is proposing $607.4 million.
Another high-profile issue will be spending to help areas of Northwest Florida that sustained severe damage in the Oct. 10 Hurricane Michael.
Senate leaders are touting proposals that they say would bring to $1.8 billion the amount of state spending to help the area recover.
“The tremendous amount of funding the state has invested in hurricane recovery placed significant constraints on our budget that guided every facet of our decision-making in all other areas,” Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said in a prepared statement Friday.
The Senate released a summary that showed it wants to provide money for numerous projects in hurricane-ravaged areas. Also, the plan includes providing $14.2 million to help school districts that face losing money because students were displaced by the storm and have moved elsewhere.