The Legislature can pass the budget at 5:37 p.m. Friday and call it quits.
After meeting late into the night on Monday and adding $300 million more in spending, the General Appropriations Act was electronically furnished to the Legislature, governor and Cabinet at 5:37 Tuesday night. The Florida Constitution requires the Legislature to wait 72 hours before passing the General Appropriations Act and calling the session to an official end.
The near $78.7 billion spending plan is nearly $29 billion in state funds and another near $49.6 billion in federal dollars. More than 113,000 state employee positions are funded throughout the various agencies.
The House is going to discuss and debate the budget and various associated bills on Thursday when it convenes. Senate spokesperson Katie Betta said Senate President Andy Gardiner won’t decide until Wednesday what course of action to take when the Senate meets in session on Thursday.
In a statement issued to the press, meanwhile, the Senate chief budget writer, state Sen. Tom Lee, said the biggest obstacle to crafting the 2015-16 budget was addressing a $1 billion loss of federal Low Income Pool dollars. Lee warned that the loss of federal dollars is a recurring issue for the state and Florida will lose another $400 million in federal Medicaid dollars.
“Despite this setback, we worked diligently to present a final product that allocates an unprecedented level of funding for Florida’s K-12 education system, reduces the tax burden on Florida families and businesses by $400 million, and sets aside nearly $3 billion in reserves.”
Gardiner did not tout the healthcare portion of the budget in his released remarks. Instead, he brought attention to increased per student funding and water and conservation programs, including $55 million in land acquisitions, $50 million for springs, and $81.8 million in Everglades restoration.