The governor’s office put its budget proposal to the senators on Monday, giving a first look at an inflated recommendation made despite economic troubles due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chris Spencer, the politician and Governor’s Budget Director, explained Governor Ron DeSantis’ proposal of $ 96.6 billion and $ 78.8 billion in federal aid related to the pandemic.
The federal aid is US $ 16.1 billion – Dollars from CARES and $ 62.7 billion in economic relief. Of that amount, the governor’s office was free to spend $ 5.9 billion on the Coronavirus Relief Fund.
In addition, $ 2.5 billion went directly from the federal government to communities with more than 500,000 residents. </ Of the $ 5.9 billion sent to the treasury, the state directed $ 1.3 billion to local governments that serve fewer than 500,000 residents. The remaining $ 4.7 billion went to government agencies and services, including $ 2.5 billion to the Department of Education and $ 250 million to Florida Housing Finance Corporation.
Under normal circumstances, lawmakers approve the expenditure of the state. But for federal aid, lawmakers offered no legislative control over DeSantis and resigned while they weren’t in session.
Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars from the U.S. Treasury Department could only be spent on essential expenses that weren’t in the last budget were included. The governor’s office had to oversee the funds it distributed to smaller local governments as the state is responsible for returning improperly spent dollars.
« It was a daunting task, and I know of great efforts in your department too. and the governor has to make sure we’re doing this properly so we don’t have to repay funds or do anything inappropriately, « committee chairman Kelli Stargel told Spencer.
Stargel signaled that the Senate was in the process of drafting one « I like to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, » said Stargel, a Lakeland Republican who chairs the committee.
Legislators, especially Democrats , have urged details of the governor’s spending. However, Spencer stated that his office worked with grants committee staff and identified their technical guidance and assistance as essential to the relief process.
« I think it really shows how the whole government approach to tackling the pandemic worked for Florida, « he said.
As an example of the questions raised on Tuesday, Senate Chair for Education Doug Broxson, a Gulf Breeze Republican, asked Spencer if DeSantis’ proposal included about 88,000 fewer students enrolled in public schools this year than expected.
Stargel said after the meeting that she believes students will return to the public school system next year. If so, it could cost ten million dollars to train.
« I hate to say the word ‘missed’ but we have 88,000 students who didn’t enroll in school this fall, » Broxson said. “We assume that they are not missing, that they are out there somewhere. How did you incorporate that into the budget? “
Spencer said there was no money in the budget for these students, referring to a conclusion from a state appraisal conference that there was no way of predicting enrollment numbers. He did, however, point out the possibility that school districts could use federal grants to « fix an unexpected surge in child returns that is not budgeted ». « I think we definitely want more with you. » talk about it and what it looks like, « Broxson replied.
The panel on Monday gave Democrats a chance to get their questions to the source, but lawmakers saved their questions for Spencer’s gubernatorial presentation.
DeSantis on Thursday made budget recommendations worth $ 96.6 billion, $ 4.3 billion more than budget lawmakers approved last year after the governor cut another $ 1 billion from his budget > Legislators have discussed ways to increase government revenues, including increasing tuition fees at government universities and enforcing online sales taxes. However, DeSantis’ proposal does not include a request to increase revenues.
On Thursday, he spoke out against an increase in tuition fees and taxes, although the legislature argued its goal of online sales taxes not as a tax increase, but as an enforcement problem .
Democratic Senator Darryl Rouson pressed for details on drug abuse and minority healthcare spending, two areas that have increased significantly from the current budget. The uneven impact of the pandemic on minority communities « was evident, » Spencer said.
Although state economists are revising revenues by $ 1.5 billion, according to estimates from the summer, the state is still down by $ 2 billion. Dollars lower than originally expected. January 2020 was projected to make the state $ 34.5 billion this fiscal year, but the December Revenue Estimating Conference put the latest forecast at $ 32.5 billion.
The Chief Economist of Legislature, Amy Baker, outlined that reality last month in front of the Senate Funds Committee, reiterating the committee chairman Kelli Stargel’s call for a conservative budget. However, the governor’s office pushed for an estimate higher than $ 32.5 billion during the conference, and DeSantis predicted Thursday that Florida would bring in even more money than estimates showed.
Jacksonville Democratic Senator Audrey Gibson, stabbed the governor and his optimism as he asked for more funds to ensure minority health equality.
« I hope you all will, given the rosy picture you all seem to see that we didn’t see Amy Baker giving a presentation, consider a better increase. «
» The governor seems to have a much rosier picture on his budget and increasing the money in the budget, « she said . « As legislators, we’ve spoken and made presentations that we may need to make significant cuts in things like health care and education (and) we need to find new ways to increase revenue. »
Renzo Downey covers the state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his career as a reporter at the Lone Star State, where he covered the Austin American-Statesman administration. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.
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