Florida House releases proposed budget

in Uncategorized by

Florida is “well on the road to recovery,” according State Rep. Seth McKeel as he released the House budget recommendations for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

The Lakeland Republican, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, issued a statement Friday on the House’s $75.3 billion proposed budget, saying that with “fiscal restraint,” the budget “responsibly prioritizes funding in the best interest of all Floridians.”

“With increased state revenue,” McKeel said, “we have the opportunity this year to provide hard-working Floridians with over $500 million in tax relief—the largest tax and fee cut of its kind in over a decade.

A few of the highlights of the proposed House 2014-2015 fiscal year budget:

Budget Breakdown

The budget breakdown is as follows: General Revenue will make up $27.68 billion, state Trust Funds another $22.1 billion, while the federal government funds the rest, at $25.6 billion. The estimated number of full-time state employees in the coming year starting July 1 has dropped by 319, to 114,166.

Legislators Continue “Sweeping”

Again, the legislature leans on the practice of “sweeping,” where lawmakers carry trust funds to the state’s General Revenue as a way to balance budgets. In the next fiscal year, the House proposes another $325.0 million in trust fund sweeps – with $55.0 million for agriculture and natural resources, $16.7 million for government operations, health care at $85.0 million and $168.3 million for transportation and economic development.

Florida Education Gets a Boost

The recommended budget makes significant investments in Florida’s education system, providing a three percent increase in per-pupil funding and total education funding, which McKeel says is the highest of any preceding year.

The House education budget proposal is at $20.7 billion, a $380.0 million (1.87 percent) increase over the current year. Early learning programs would increase $24.7 million to $1 billion, a 2.45 percent increase from the current year, including $10 million for the School Readiness Performance program.

The Voluntary Prekindergarten Program will remain the same at $404.9 million, despite a projected decline in enrollment; $2,491 per-student for the school year program and $2,134 the summer programs— an increase of $108 per-student.

State universities will see an increase of $167.4 million to $4.3 billion in the next fiscal year, an increase of just over 4 percent from the current year funding.

Both Florida Residents Access Grants and Access to Better Learning and Education student tuition-assistance programs increased, with $5.1 million provided for enrollment growth and fully funding newly eligible institutions in the FRAG and ABLE programs. In addition, $12.4 million more will go to increase each program’s award amount per student by $300 per award.

Universities helping students get jobs after graduation will be able to take advantage of an additional $60 million in performance funding.

Child Welfare Takes Priority

Florida’s child welfare system is slated for an additional $13.1 million to hire 191 more Child Protective Investigators (CPIs), reducing both the investigator to caseload ratio and supervisor to investigator ratio.   

More than $8 million will be available to six county Sheriffs to help them perform child abuse investigations instead of the Department of Children and Families.

Healthy Families Program will expand, with an extra $7.5 million to support voluntary, in-home services to prevent child abuse and neglect, a situation that could lead to the removal of the child from the home.

No Reductions in Medicaid

Funding for Medicaid caseloads and price level adjustments, figures determined by the February 2014 Social Service Estimating Conference, is based on an anticipated 3.7 million Medicaid beneficiaries. There will be no category of Medicaid eligibility eliminated or reduced, nor will provider rates.

Medicaid provider rates will increase by $5.6 million, for $14.0 million total.

The proposed budget provides funding to increase private duty nursing rates by 10 percent and Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care (PPEC) reimbursement rates by 3.5 percent, and provides a 2 percent increase to Adult Day Training Providers.

“Our budget continues to strengthen Florida’s safety net to serve our most vulnerable populations,” McKeel added. “We have provided funding to serve all citizens with intensive needs on the Agency for Persons with Disabilities Medicaid Waiver waiting list to help provide them with the services they need. We have also invested in Florida’s child welfare system to reduce caseloads for Child Protective Investigators and better protect the children in our state.”   

Environment, Drinking Water and the Everglades All Get Relief

As for Florida’s environment, Everglades restoration will receive an additional $37 million, for a total of $115 million in fiscal year 2014-2015, including $32 million for a Water Quality Plan, $40 million for the C-44 Indian River Lagoon reservoir project and $30 million to develop the Tamiami Trail Bridge, as part of the Department Of Transportation budget.

Protecting Florida’s drinking water also gets a financial boost in the House budget proposal, from an additional $16.3 million in aid to local communities to develop water systems, for a total of $225.2 million.

“The House has also made significant investments to protect the environment, ensure the safety of our citizens, and improve our transportation infrastructure,” McKeel said. “I believe this budget strikes the right balance between funding our state’s priorities, providing meaningful tax relief to Floridians and maintaining over $1.2 billion in General Revenue reserves to prepare for any potential future economic uncertainty.”

To view the entire overview of the 2014-2015 House General Appropriations Act, visit www.myfloridahouse.gov.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.