Senate Budget Prioritizes K-12 Education Funding, Tax Relief, Reserves

By: Florida Senate Email
By: Florida Senate Email

News Release: Florida Senate

Tallahassee–The Florida Senate today released a budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014-15, prioritizing investments in K-12 education, student access to higher education, performance funding in Florida’s State University System, and economic development to enhance Florida’s transportation infrastructure, tourism industry and environment. The Senate budget funds $586 million for the 2014-15 unfunded actuarial liability of the Florida Retirement System, sets aside $500 million for recurring tax relief and $3.2 billion in total state reserves.

“Our budget allows for $500 million in broad-based tax relief, including a nearly $400 million reduction in motor vehicle fees, unanimously approved by the Florida Senate earlier this week and championed by Governor Scott and Speaker Weatherford,” said Florida Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville). “Our budget also funds a number of joint Senate and House priorities including performance funding for state universities linking education to the realities of today’s economy, as well as funding to enhance protections for the most vulnerable in our society through Children’s Advocacy Centers, a maximum current year expansion of the Guardian Ad Litem program, and increased funding for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) critical needs waiting list.”

“After years of recession, Florida’s economy is rebounding and our state has enough revenue to fund critical needs, set aside ample reserves, and to make good on the fourth year of our five year commitment to repaying the budget stabilization fund,” said Senator Joe Negron (R-Stuart), Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

The Senate Budget totals $74.9 billion including $27.4 billion general revenue (GR) and $47.5 billion in trust funds (TF). Reserves total $3.2 billion including $1.5 billion Working Capital, $214.5 million for a Budget Stabilization Fund transfer (Fiscal Year 2014-2015 transfer), $922.8 million in the Budget Stabilization Fund (estimated June 30, 2014 balance based on anticipated transfers), and $573 million in the Lawton Chiles Endowment Fund (estimated June 30, 2014 balance). Reserves total 10.1 percent of General Revenue.

The Senate Budget also includes a pay increase for the state court system totaling $9.7 million GR, and $321.4 million for maintaining and building education facilities.

“Our budget facilitates vital components of a number of critical pieces of legislation currently moving through the legislative process, among these the Florida GI Bill, which unanimously passed the House and Senate, and legislation codifying our commitment to substantial investments in a more effective, more professional, and more accountable child welfare system,” continued President Gaetz. “I am grateful to each Senator for again agreeing to serve on at least two Appropriations Committees, and for the months of work spent developing this budget.”

“More funding does not equal better or more efficient government and we should not spend more because we have more,” continued Chair Negron. “Government should first save for the future, so burdens of hard times are not passed down to the taxpayer, and second, take less, leaving more money in the pockets of the hardworking Floridians who earn it. This is the philosophy we used to build the Senate Budget, and we are looking forward to bringing it before the Appropriations Committee next week and then to the Senate Floor.”

Criminal and Civil Justice
“Our subcommittee funded all identified workload issues within the Attorney General’s Office, State Courts, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, including the shortfall in the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Trust Fund,” said Senator Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island), Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations. “Additionally, we fully funded issues related to the increase in the prison population forecast for the current year, as well as fiscal year 2014-15.”

The Criminal and Civil Justice Budget totals 4.68 billion ($3.88 billion GR; $797 million TF) and includes 44,957.25 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) positions. The budget funds the Criminal Justice Estimating Conference’s (CJEC) prison population forecast for the Department of Corrections in Fiscal Year 2013-14 and Fiscal Year 2014-15 and also funds District Courts of Appeal critical maintenance and repairs, security enhancements, and partial construction of new District Court of Appeals building, $10.7 million GR.

“Our budget provides for the expansion of the PACE Center for Girls as well as the Children in Need of Services (CINS) and Families in Need of Services (FINS) programs in underserved areas,” continued Chair Bradley. “As outlined in the joint House and Senate Work Plan proposed by President Gaetz and Speaker Weatherford, we also increased funding for Guardian Ad Litem staffing to support the Program’s plan to serve all children in dependency within the next two years and increased funding for enhanced services at Child Advocacy Centers, including medical team services.”

The budget funds Guardian Ad Litem staffing to support the Program’s plan to serve all children in dependency; $6.1 million GR, 105.5 FTE, and funds Children’s Advocacy Center services, including medical team services, $4.5 million GR. The budget funds the PACE Center for Girls expansion, $2 million GR, and CINS/FINS expansion in underserved areas, $3.4 million GR.

“By increasing access and need-based opportunities, we achieved our goal of producing a budget that cements the link between education and jobs,” said Senator Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. “The subcommittee allocated an unprecedented level of funding for K-12 Education, including funds to increase access to Career and Professional Education (CAPE) Industry Certifications in Middle and High School, funding for Florida’s CAPE Digital Classrooms, and targeted funds for the 300 lowest performing elementary schools to provide one additional hour per day of intensive reading instruction.”

State appropriations for education total $18.7 billion ($14.3 billion GR; $4.4 billion TF), excluding appropriated university tuition and fees. Total funding for education, including local revenues amounts to $29.7 billion ($18.7 billion state funds; $11 billion local). Local revenues include required and discretionary local effort for public schools and tuition and fees for district workforce, colleges, and universities. The budget does not include a tuition increase for state colleges, universities, or district workforce programs, nor does it require a local millage increase.

In K-12 Education, funding for the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) is increased by $651 million or 3.56 percent, a per student increase of $175 or 2.58 percent. The enrollment workload increase of $99.6 million was funded with GR. The K-12 budget also includes an additional $30 million for high school and middle school industry certifications, $40 million for the Digital Classrooms Allocation and at least $90 million to expand the extended day program for intensive reading to 300 elementary schools.

The budget for Florida’s State University System includes $200 million in performance funding, $100 million in new funds (TF), and a $100 million reprioritization of base funds (GR).

“Through new funding and a reprioritization of base funds, we dramatically enhanced performance funding for state universities and colleges that ties education programs to the demands of the economy,” continued Chair Galvano. “We also funded student award level increases for Bright Futures, the Florida Resident Access Grant (FRAG), Access to Better Learning and Education Grant (ABLE) and the need-based Florida Student Assistance Grant (FSAG), and created a national merit scholar incentive.”

To increase student access to higher education opportunities, the budget provides a workload increase and a student level award increase for the FRAG, $22.7 million GR and the ABLE Grant, $2.4 million GR. The budget also provides a student level award increase for Bright Futures, $25 million TF a 9.4 percent increase, and an FSAG increase of $25 million TF.

General Government
“Our goal was to produce a budget that places strategic investments in Florida’s economy through initiatives benefiting Florida’s environment and our agriculture industry,” said Senator Alan Hays (R-Umatilla), Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on General Government Appropriations. “Agencies within our subcommittee’s jurisdiction are responsible for overseeing the operational side of state government. Therefore, as we compiled our budget, we evaluated these entities in detail to ensure taxpayer dollars spent to operate the government are being used in a fiscally-responsible manner.”

“Our budget funds the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin, additional funding for citrus greening research and investments in Florida’s springs, parks, beaches, and water management infrastructure,” continued Chair Hays. “Government has a responsibility to adequately maintain buildings and land owned by the state. As such, the subcommittee also allocated funding for critical improvements to our state facilities.”

The General Government Appropriation Budget totals $5.2 billion ($661.1 million GR; $4.6 billion TF) and includes 20,186 FTE. The budget funds citrus research and the Budwood Program with $2 million GR and $4 million TF; Florida Forever, $40 million TF; water infrastructure, $42 million, GR; state parks maintenance and repair, $19.6 million TF; local parks, $3.2 TF; and beach restoration, $27.4 million GR and $21.8 million TF. The budget also funds the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin, $77.1 million GR and $50.7 million TF.

Health and Human Services
“Our budget funds a number of Senate priorities including the most critical clients on the Agency for Person with Disabilities (APD) waiting list, Cancer Research Endowments, and increased civil commitment facility capacity for sexually violent predators,” said Senator Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. “We funded additional Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) slots and included funds to transition additional clients to the Home and Community Based Serves Waiver, and the Community Care for the Elderly and Alzheimer’s Community Care Programs.”

The total Health and Human Services Budget includes $30.6 billion ($8.1 billion GR; $22.5 billion TF) and 32,827.07 FTE. The budget includes funding to transition wait list individuals to the home and community-based services waiver (approximately 1,400 individuals) through $8.1 million GR, $11.9 million TF and funding to serve additional clients in the long-term care managed care program (approximately 1,136 individuals), $6.6 million GR; $9.7 million TF.

The budget increases PACE slots, $1.9 million GR; $2.9 million TF, and includes funds to serve frail elders waiting for Alzheimer’s Disease services (392 Slots), $4 million GR. Funding will also serve additional clients in the community care for the elderly program (601 Slots), $4 million GR and civil commitment facility capacity for violent sexual predators, $1.5 million TF.

“We funded additional residency slots to keep our best and brightest medical graduates practicing in Florida and doubled the personal needs allowance for Medicaid patients in nursing homes,” continued Chair Grimsley. “We also increased funding for substance abuse and mental health services for children and adults, including pregnant women and domestic abuse survivors, and allocated funds for the maintenance and repair of state veterans’ nursing homes.”

The budget will provide substance abuse services for pregnant women, $10 million GR; children’s mental health Community Action Teams, $8.1 million GR; adult community mental health funding, $4 million GR; domestic violence services, $4 million GR; and adult/children community substance abuse funding, $3.6 million GR.

The budget also doubles the personal needs allowance (currently $35 per month) for Medicaid patients living in nursing homes, $9.1 million GR; $10.9 million TF; provides for the phase one construction of new state veterans’ nursing home, $11 million TF; and funds ongoing maintenance and repair of state veterans’ nursing homes and other domiciliary, $7.8 million TF.

Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development
“Improving and maintaining Florida’s transportation infrastructure is a core function of state government and critical to growing Florida’s economy,” said Senator Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development. “Our budget fully funds the Department of Transportation (DOT) Work Program, including highway construction, county transportation programs, aviation and seaport grants, as well as public transit and rail development. Additional funding through the DOT Work Program will allow for a strategic investment in ecotourism by providing for a state partnership in the construction of the Coast to Coast Connector Trail.”

The Senate budget includes $8.7 billion for the DOT Work Program and $226.3 million for state and local affordable housing programs. The budget also provides $75.5 million for economic development incentive programs and $117.7 million for our economic development partners (EFI, Visit Florida, Space Florida, etc.)

“Our budget addresses the needs of many vulnerable Floridians through a significant allocation of funding for affordable housing programs,” continued Chair Gardiner. “Recognizing the important role history, culture and the arts play in Florida’s tourism industry as well as our overall economy, we increased funding for a variety of historical and cultural initiatives within the Department of State. We also funded Florida National Guard Armory maintenance and repair over and above the level already funded through Florida’s GI Bill and provided funds for the construction of the Special Forces Headquarters at Camp Blanding.”

The budget includes funding for additional positions at the Florida Highway Patrol, $3.1 million, 25 FTE. The budget also makes a significant investment the arts, culture and history by transitioning funding for state libraries, cultural programs, and historic preservation grants from non-recurring to recurring. In total the budget funds: state aid to libraries, $22.3 million GR; library cooperative grants, $1.5 million GR; cultural and museum grants, $7.6 million GR (of which, $5.5 million is recurring), cultural endowment grants, $6.9 million GR; cultural facilities grants, $7.1 million; and historic preservation grants, $10 million GR (of which, $1.5 million is recurring).

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