Friday night in the Legislature is going to be a long one.
At 8:35 p.m. Tuesday, Florida lawmakers received an email with the compromise budget and the 72-hour constitutionally mandated waiting period begins. This means the Legislature will be in session at least until the same time Friday evening, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.
The final spending plan, taking effect July 1, stands at a historic $77.1 billion, a figure larger than either proposal from the House or Senate. In raw dollars, that makes next year’s budget the largest ever for Florida.
Among the differences between the first and final budget revisions were additional Medicaid funding, based on local tax money used to elicit federal dollars, as well as an increase in Florida’s transportation work plan.
Public education also gets the greatest funding levels in state history, even though per-student figures fall just below the levels schools received before the 2008 financial collapse.
State universities will get to divvy up $200 million based on performance — counting new funding of $100 million.
Millions of dollars will go to protect and restore the Everglades and associated waterways and springs. The state will trim waiting lists for state services — not enough to please some critics — and additional agents will be brought on to investigate child abuse.
Although the budget has $500 million in tax and fee reductions, particulars on exactly what will be cut is still subject to debate in the House and Senate.
“It’s a budget that I think prioritizes the needs of the state,” House Speaker Will Weatherford told the News Service. “I’m sure there will be people that will have some complaints about it. No budget is perfect.”
To nail down the details, Appropriations Chairs Sen. Joe Negron and Rep. Seth McKeel continued negotiations up to the last minute. Although issues between the chambers were — for all intents and purposes — settled in a Monday meeting lasting until almost midnight, the House added final revisions to one of its offers on Tuesday afternoon. They then added a flurry of last-minute projects, such as tens of millions of dollars for everything from money for state libraries and $25 million more for charter schools, added after construction funding for charters came in lower than the House wanted, to a proposal to enhance personal-needs allowances for residents of nursing homes.
The allowance issue came from Senate President Don Gaetz to bolster an increase already working through the process. Currently, residents get $35 a month; the new figure will be $100.
“This appropriation has no special interests behind it, no lobbyists hired to advocate for it, and no campaign to pass it,” Gaetz told the News Service in a statement. “The personal needs allowance is for our mothers and fathers, our grandparents and elders who built Florida and now look to us for basic decency that allows them to maintain their dignity.”