Tallahassee, FL (STL.News) Today, Governor Ron DeSantis released his “Florida Leads” budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2021-2022.

Governor Ron DeSantis said, “While the COVID-19 pandemic has tested the strength of our state and our nation, Florida is resilient and will continue to lead.  The cornerstone of my mission has been to protect our most vulnerable residents and put Florida’s Seniors First, while ensuring that every Floridian can go to school, go to work, and provide for themselves and their families.

“Because of this approach, Florida has been an exception to many of the economic struggles we are seeing in other states.  The Florida Leads Fiscal Year 2021-2022 Budget exemplifies our continued resolve and unshakable economic foundation.  The budget builds on key investments in education, the environment, health and human services, public safety and more, while safeguarding taxpayer dollars and maintaining strong fiscal reserves.
“Our state has been tested many times before and has always passed with flying colors.  Although our fight against COVID-19 has altered our economic landscape, Florida is on the road to recovery and will continue to lead.”

Florida Leads on Fiscal Responsibility and Taxpayer Savings

The total recommendation for the FY 2021-2022 budget is $96.6 billion.  While this is an increase of $4.3 billion over the current fiscal year, $2.6 billion accounts for various expenditures related to the state’s COVID-19 pandemic response and its impacts on Floridians.

Due to the remaining uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the budget recommends over $1 billion in savings – including over $400 million in administrative and operational efficiencies.

The budget places $6.6 billion in total reserves, which is more than 6 percent of the total budget, leaving ample resources for unforeseen expenditures related to the COVID-19 pandemic and 2021 hurricane season.

The Governor’s recommended budget also includes $65 million in tax relief for Florida families, including a $56 million 8-day Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday and a $9 million 10-day Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday.

Florida Leads on Education

Florida’s students, parents and educators have faced significant disruptions and challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Despite these unprecedented circumstances, Florida remains committed to providing the best education experience possible for every student, including in-person education.

The budget builds on the Governor’s success to secure pay raises for Florida’s teachers by including $550 million, an increase of $50 million, to continue raising the minimum K-12 teacher salary to $47,500, as well as the salaries of other instructional personnel.

The budget includes $22.8 billion in total funding and $12.9 billion in state funding for K-12 public schools, the highest amount ever.  This amount would bring K-12 per-student funding to $8,019, exceeding the current year’s record funding by $233 per student.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has affected students in unimaginable ways, the budget includes $110 million for mental health programs in Florida’s schools, an increase of $10 million over current year funding.

The Florida Leads budget for Fiscal Year 2021-2022 includes key investments in the Florida College System including $10 million in the Work Florida Student Success Incentive Fund, as well as, $10 million for the Pathways to Career Opportunities Grant Program and nearly $510 million in funding to support workforce education programs.  These investments continue the Governor’s commitment to being number one in the nation for workforce education by 2030.

Florida Leads on the Environment

The protection of Florida’s vital water resources is one of the most pressing issues facing our state.  That is why Governor DeSantis has made the environment a key priority since day one.

Upon taking office, the Governor called for $2.5 billion to be invested in Everglades restoration and Florida’s water resources over four years. Florida is halfway there, having invested over $1.25 billion over the past two years.

The budget continues that commitment by allocating more than $625 million for these causes.  This includes over $473 million for Everglades restoration, $50 million for Springs restoration, $145 million for targeted water quality improvements, $40 million for alternative water supply and $25 million to combat harmful algal blooms and red tide.

The budget also tackles the challenges of sea level rise, intensified storm events, and localized flooding by establishing the Resilient Florida program which will provide $1 billion over four years to provide grants to state and local government entities.

The Florida Leads budget includes $82 million to protect Florida’s prized properties and waterbodies.  This includes $50 million for the Florida Forever Program and $32 million for infrastructure improvements and resource management at state parks to ensure visitors and residents alike have access to Florida’s prized properties for generations to come.

Florida Leads on Economic Development

While COVID-19 has impacted Florida’s economy, Florida’s economic recovery is well underway.  With each passing month, the state continues to see Floridians returning to work and businesses reopening and growing.

To further support Florida on its current path of economic recovery, job growth, and business development, the Florida Leads budget provides significant funding for economic expansion initiatives.

The budget includes $50 million for the Job Growth Grant Fund to support local infrastructure and job training projects targeted towards economic recovery and development.  Also included is $5 million for Enterprise Florida, Inc. to engage in targeted campaigns that market the opportunities available in Florida for businesses to realize economic and job growth in the state.

The Florida Leads budget invests $50 million for VISIT FLORIDA’s marketing programs, the same amount as in the current fiscal year, to continue showcasing that Florida is once again open and safe for tourists from throughout the U.S. and the world.

The budget also provides $50 million for the Economic Development Transportation Fund, also known as the “Road Fund”.  This will provide funding for projects to facilitate economic development by eradicating location-specific transportation problems (e.g., access roads, signalization, road widening, etc.)

Florida Leads on Health and Human Services

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the health and well-being of Floridians in unimaginable ways. Parents, children, and seniors have struggled, making the need for support and mental health services more acute than ever.

The Florida Leads budget includes more than $32 million to provide funding for services to children and families who receive services through Florida’s child welfare system.  This funding provides support for foster care parents who care for children removed from their home and families who adopt children from the foster care system.

The budget includes more than $31 million for adults and children who suffer from mental illness and emotional disturbances and continues the fight against the national opioid epidemic with more than $178 million in state and federal funding.

The budget contains more than $51 million in funding for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities waiver program and allows more individuals with disabilities to live in their communities.  This funding also includes additional supports for individuals with severe behavioral needs.

Florida Leads on Public Safety

Public safety is and remains a top priority, and thanks to the hard work of Florida law enforcement officers, the state’s crime rate is at a 49-year low.

This budget takes bold steps to fund innovative programs, safer correctional facilities, and evidence-based programs for at-risk youth.

Key public safety investments include $5 million to continue a retention pay plan for correctional officers, correctional probation officers, and inspectors, $26.1 million to continue transitioning correctional officers from a 12-hour shift to an 8.5-hour shift and $12.4 million to fund prevention programs for at-risk youth.

The budget also includes $14.5 million to enhance Florida’s crime databases, including $11.4 million to continue the transition to incident-based crime reporting; and $3.1 million to centralize criminal justice data and make it more transparent to the public.

Florida Leads on Transportation and Infrastructure

Florida’s ability to be able to grow and prosper is due in no small part to having one of the best transportation systems in the country.

The budget contains significant investments in our transportation infrastructure to relieve traffic congestion, ensure efficiency and improve safety on our roads for Floridians and the millions of tourists coming to the state.

This year’s budget provides $9.47 billion for the State Transportation Work Program, which includes vital funding to increase infrastructure capacity, new highway construction, bridge repairs, and seaport, aviation and transit program improvements.

The budget provides $423.3 million for workforce and affordable housing programs across the state to help working families meet basic housing needs.  This funding is in addition to the more than $250 million to address affordable housing needs and the increase in homelessness due to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.

Florida Leads on Supporting Military and Their Families

Governor DeSantis is committed to remaining the nation’s most veteran and military-friendly Governor, and his Florida Leads budget reflects this commitment by providing $24.4 million for Florida’s military presence and families.

This funding includes $2 million for the Florida Defense Support Task Force, $2 million for military base protection, including additional security measures for National Guard armories, $3.1 million to support Florida National Guardsmen seeking higher education degrees and $8.4 million to support scholarships for children and spouses of deceased or disabled veterans.

Florida Leads on Cybersecurity

With evolving times comes evolving threats, which is why the Governor remains focused on providing funding to strengthen Florida’s cybersecurity.

The Florida Leads budget contains nearly $40 million to take action in protecting the State against cyber threats that can compromise critical resources and information.  The Cybersecurity Task Force’s upcoming recommendations will be essential in Florida’s strategy to combat the ongoing and evolving nature of cybersecurity.