Q: Can you give us a budget summary from the recently concluded legislative session?
A: Every year the state of Florida is required by the state constitution to pass a balanced budget. Due to uncertainty over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, revenue was expected to be down across the board, which would lead to a very tight budget year; however, through the fall and spring, revenue estimates continued to trend upwards leading to more optimism in the legislature for crafting the budget. Combined with the 10 billion dollars provided by the American Rescue Plan, the Florida House passed a better than expected budget. Some highlights of the $100 billion budget Gov. DeSantis signed on June 2 include:
- $6.7 billion for various projects (including infrastructure, environmental and education) with funding provided by the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund, all subject to receipt of the state’s portion of these funds.
- $2.1 billion for protection of Florida’s water resources, including projects for Everglades restoration, springs, storm water and wastewater grants and the Resilient Florida Grant Program
- $402 million for Florida Forever for the acquisition of conservation lands
- $150 million for Beach Restoration Projects, which is the highest level of funding for these projects in history
- $4.3 billion to fund the Medicaid Price Level and Workload. These funds will serve an anticipated 4.8 million beneficiaries with no reductions to eligibility groups or services. This is the highest caseload in Florida’s history, with more than 20 percent of the state’s population enrolled in Medicaid.
- $22.8 billion in total funds for the Florida Education Finance Program, ($12.9 billion in state funds and $9.9 billion in local funds).
- $53.42 increase in the base student allocation for total funds of $4,372.91 per student
- $50 million increase in the Teacher Salary Increase Allocation to support a minimum base salary of $47,500 for all full-time classroom teachers.
- $185.7 million to continue the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System
- $63.8 million for repair and maintenance of state buildings including the Capitol Complex
- $30 million for cybersecurity initiatives to secure the state’s IT infrastructure, systems and network.
Q: Can you share some funding highlights for local projects in St. Johns County?
A: We had success with local funding. Here is a list of projects in St. Johns County and the region for which were able to secure funding totaling $13,986,136:
- $3,800,250 for mental health and substance abuse treatment and youth services;
- $4,494,000 to rebuild damaged dunes in Ponte Vedra, West Augustine Septic to Sewer and St. Augustine Beach Flooding remediation;
- $4,134,628 for intersection improvements in World Golf Village and Ponte Vedra, as well as maintenance for the St. Augustine Lighthouse;
- $975,000 for the Northeast Florida 21st Century Workforce development project that engages youth in STEM opportunities and future career paths in a fun and inspiring way.
Q: What is the best way for our readers to contact you?
A: Readers can email me at Cyndi.Stevenson@myfloridahouse.gov or call my local office at (904) 823-2300.