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Politics / Issues

Lawmakers are flush with cash as Florida's state budget grows

Florida Capitol
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Lawmakers are flush with cash, thanks to federal stimulus money and larger-than-expected tax collections as Florida’s economy has recovered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawmakers are flush with cash, thanks to federal stimulus money and larger-than-expected tax collections as Florida’s economy has recovered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thud.

That was the sound — OK, at least figuratively — of newly proposed House and Senate budgets hitting the desk.

The Senate proposal weighs in at $108.6 billion, while the House proposal totals nearly $105.3 billion. Both of the proposals, released Friday, would be record spending plans for the state and would easily top the current-year budget of roughly $100 billion.

Appropriations committees in the Senate and House are expected Wednesday to take up the proposals and likely will make tweaks before sending the spending plans to the full Senate and House. Ultimately, the two chambers will have to agree on a final budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, which will start July 1.

As the big numbers might suggest, lawmakers are flush with cash, thanks to federal stimulus money and larger-than-expected tax collections as Florida’s economy has recovered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And with elections coming this fall, don’t be surprised if lawmakers look for popular ways to spend the money before heading onto the campaign trail.

House Appropriations Chairman Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, said in a prepared statement Friday that the House proposal is “bold and resilient.”

“The budget presented today by the Florida House reflects the unique needs and challenges posed by rapid growth, a robust economy and protection of our natural resources,” Trumbull said. “We provide record funding for our state parks and students and strategic investments in state worker pay. In addressing today’s challenges, we continue our focus on preparing for the future with over $11 billion in reserves.”

Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Kelly Stargel, R-Lakeland, offered a similar message about the Senate proposal.

“The Senate’s balanced budget continues our commitment to responsibly spend state revenues on the critical needs of the day, while at the same time planning for investments in our transportation, environmental and public safety infrastructure that will benefit Floridians years into the future,” Stargel said in a statement. “We also set aside a significant rainy day fund that will ensure Florida remains ready to take on whatever challenges may come our way.”

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