Lionfish, bugs and avocado trees: Take a deep dive into Florida’s $91.1 billion budget

The 448-page spending package includes more than just big-ticket issues such as education funding, health-care costs and road projects.
A lionfish on display at the Florida Aquarium. JIM REED/STAFF
A lionfish on display at the Florida Aquarium. JIM REED/STAFF
Published May 8, 2019|Updated May 8, 2019

TALLAHASSEE --- A record $91.1 billion spending plan for next fiscal year will soon be formally transmitted to Gov. Ron DeSantis, starting a 15-day clock for him to wield his line-item veto pen and decide what stays and what goes.

On Saturday, shortly after lawmakers passed the new state budget, DeSantis vowed that the overall spending total would come down, to which Senate President Bill Galvano said he hopes DeSantis “really studies and understands what is there and gets to the bottom of it, as opposed to just making a statement in terms of a number to cut.”

The 448-page spending package includes more than just big-ticket issues such as education funding, health-care costs and road projects. The budget (SB 2500) and an accompanying bill (SB 2502) are filled with smaller spending decisions.

Among them:

ELECTION SECURITY: County election supervisors would be able to draw from a $2.8 million grant to continue cybersecurity improvements in advance of the 2020 presidential election. County supervisors, in part, would be required to provide detailed descriptions of the programs being implemented.

STRONGER COASTLINES: The Florida Resilient Coastline Initiative would provide $5.5 million to help local governments brace for rising sea levels, conduct coastal resilience projects and maintain the health of coral reefs.

TRAVEL COSTS FOR NUNEZ, JUSTICES: The budget’s accompanying “implementing” bill includes covering travel costs to and from Tallahassee if Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez and Supreme Court justices live outside of Leon County. The officials would be able to designate headquarters in their home counties. Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady would set “subsistence” rates when the justices are in Leon County.

STEM-EDUCATED GUARD: Roughly $3.67 million is set aside for members of the Florida National Guard seeking degrees, with a priority going to those studying science, technology, engineering or math.

CREATIVITY GRANT: A $500,000 grant would go to Ringling College of Art and Design’s five-member Cross College Alliance Center for Creativity, Collaboration and Competitiveness to “create a convergence of expertise, leading edge learning opportunities and key resources to differentiate and competitively advantage the Sarasota/Manatee Region --- its students, workforce, employers, economy and community --- as a vibrant ecosystem of creativity.”

BUG STUDIES: To combat mosquito-borne illnesses, $500,000 is slated for university or college research that develops and test pesticides and biological control agents.

LIONFISH CONTESTS: With $1 million set aside for nuisance species control, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission would be able to recruit local dive shops or commercial fishermen to host state-sponsored excursions or dive trips in which anglers would be taught to harvest, safely handle, clean and cook lionfish. Ten percent of the money could be used by the commission to partner with local seafood markets and restaurants to market lionfish as a food.

CITRUS RESEARCH: In the ongoing effort to fight deadly citrus diseases, $2 million of the $8 million for citrus research would go to the Citrus Research and Development Foundation to conduct research into increasing production through a combination of management and “therapeutic tools for new plantings.”

GUAC PRESERVATION: Voluntary testing of avocado trees for laurel wilt and the destruction of infected trees would get $150,000 from the Agricultural Emergency Eradication Trust Fund, meeting a request from Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, seeking to “create an environment where the disease is manageable.”

SPRINGS SWIMMING: As part of more than $20 million in state-park improvements, $1.5 million would go to the Silver Springs State Park Swimming Area. Marion County is looking to develop a swimming area at the headsprings and down-river docking areas on the Silver River. Another $1 million would be targeted to reduce gridlock at the entrance to Wekiva State Park.