© 2024 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You Count on Us, We Count on You: Donate to WUSF to support free, accessible journalism for yourself and the community.
Get the latest coverage of the 2024 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Florida lawmakers prepare for budget talks

Kathleen Passidomo smiling during a meeting
Colin Hackley
News Service of Florida
Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples.

The House and Senate on Wednesday will take up their budget proposals for the 2024-2025 fiscal year, as they prepare to negotiate a final spending plan.

With spending plans topping $115 billion, the House and Senate continued moving closer Wednesday to negotiations on a final budget for next year.

The House is slated to vote Thursday on its budget proposal (HB 5001). The Senate will take up the House proposal and send it back with a message to start “collegial” budget talks, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, said.

“Like last session, I think we're going to come in on time and on budget,” Passidomo told reporters.

The bottom lines of the House and Senate plans are separated by about $350 million, with the House budget lower. Both would be reductions from the $119.1 billion budget in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, said the final budget will include paying off debt and socking away record reserves but probably will result in sales-tax “holidays” that are “more restricted than last year.”

With the planned 60-day legislative session hitting its mid-point on Wednesday, the upcoming budget talks will require lawmakers to hammer out differences on a variety of issues ranging from prison funding to tourism marketing. The legislative session is scheduled to end March 8.

Meanwhile, a package of tax breaks that will run parallel to the budget will start to be discussed Thursday in the House Ways & Means Committee.

DeSantis has proposed $1.1 billion in tax breaks --- down from $1.3 billion in the current fiscal year, which included numerous tax holidays when people could buy items without paying sales taxes.

The state this year offered two 14-day tax holidays for back-to-school items, two 14-day tax holidays for disaster-preparedness supplies, a three-month tax holiday for recreational items and activities and a seven-day holiday for such things as tools.

The governor’s proposal for the 2024-2025 fiscal year includes six tax holidays. His recommendations also call for a one-year exemption on property-insurance taxes, fees, and assessments that would target homeowners with properties valued up to $750,000.

Passidomo said she supported the insurance proposal, while Broxson called it “a nice idea” but “not a big number.”

Among the biggest issues in the Senate budget is a more than $3 billion, 30-year plan to repair aging prison infrastructure and build new facilities. Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Chairwoman Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island, called the plan “a great first step. And we look forward to seeing this project over the finish line.”

The Senate is also backing Passidomo’s priority to attract more doctors and expand access to health care through a $767.4 million plan dubbed “Live Healthy.”

The state’s tourism-marketing arm Visit Florida would get $80 million in the Senate plan, the same amount as in the current year, while the House would provide $30 million. DeSantis has called for $105 million.

The House meanwhile is pushing to increase pay for future governors and other state leaders, with the issue included in what is known as a budget “conforming” bill (HB 5007).

Starting in 2027-2028, the House measure would require the governor to be paid the same as state Supreme Court justices, who are currently paid $251,414 a year. DeSantis reported receiving $141,400 in 2022 as part of his annual financial-disclosure report released last June.

“Obviously, (Democrats) getting less than 10 percent of the money devoted to these projects is unacceptably low. The people of our communities deserve as much consideration as those in Republican districts, and these decisions should be made on merit and need.”
House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell

“We have 1,900 state employees who make a higher salary than the governor,” House Appropriations Chairman Tom Leek, R-Ormond Beach, said.

Salaries would also be increased for the lieutenant governor, Cabinet members and appellate, circuit and county judges.

Lawmakers also have wedged funding for about 1,000 local projects and programs --- sought by individual legislators --- in each spending plan.

House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, on Monday said 993 projects and programs in the House package total $1.3 billion, with more than 90 percent proposed by Republicans.

“Obviously, (Democrats) getting less than 10 percent of the money devoted to these projects is unacceptably low,” Driskell said. “The people of our communities deserve as much consideration as those in Republican districts, and these decisions should be made on merit and need.”

The lawmakers’ projects and programs are relatively small slices of the overall budget plans. The House plan totaled $115.55 billion, while the Senate version was $115.9 billion.

Both offer 3 percent pay raises for state employees and a 2.5 percent hike in the per-student funding for kindergarten through 12th-grade students under the Florida Education Finance Program, the state’s main school-funding formula.