Highlights from Florida's proposed budget, including a possible Rays spring training site in Pasco
Included in the budget is $35 million for a "Sports Training and Youth Tournament Complex" that potentially could be used to bring the Rays to Pasco County for spring training.
A $112.1 billion budget that lawmakers passed last week covers more than the state’s basics for education, health care and law enforcement.
The budget and a series of accompanying bills include spending on everything from new state planes to zoos. Gov. Ron DeSantis has line-item veto power, so it’s too early to know everything that will be in the budget when the fiscal year starts July 1.
But here is a sample of some of the items in the budget package:
AIR FLORIDA: Lawmakers approved buying and replacing several aircraft, including two new jets for state leaders. DeSantis already has at his disposal a $15.5 million Cessna Citation Latitude that lawmakers agreed to buy in 2019. Other planes and helicopters would go to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
CANCER FIGHT FUNDED: The budget would provide a major boost to efforts to build an H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute campus in Pasco County. The budget includes $20 million as a first annual installment to help Moffitt secure bonds for construction. Another $106 million would cover initial infrastructure.
CITRUS RECOVERY SOUGHT: Citrus recovery efforts drew $13 million, with most of the money slated for consumer awareness campaigns and $1 million to increase “production of trees that show tolerance or resistance to citrus greening, and to commercialize technologies that produce tolerance or resistance to citrus greening in trees.”
COURT CASH: Lawmakers approved adding a 6th District Court of Appeal and providing $50 million to build a courthouse in Lakeland. The state has had five district courts of appeal for decades, but the Florida Supreme Court recommended adding a sixth district.
EMERGENCY DIGS: The budget includes $80 million to build a new State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.
FAIR AMOUNTS OF FUNDING: Lawmakers earmarked a total of $31.8 million to help various county fairs, agricultural museums, livestock expos and a rodeo.
HAMILTON COMES TO GAINESVILLE: Lawmakers approved creating the Hamilton Center for Classical and Civic Education at the University of Florida to “support teaching and research concerning the ideas, traditions, and texts that form the foundations of western and American civilization.” The budget includes $3 million for the center.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA MONEY: The budget would provide $9.3 million to Florida A&M University’s Division of Research to educate minorities on medical marijuana and “the impact of the unlawful use of marijuana on minority communities.”
OYSTER AID ON MENU: Oyster restoration efforts are slated to draw $500,000 for Choctawhatchee Bay in Walton County and $495,000 for the Pensacola and Perdido Bays Estuary Program. Also, $950,000 would go for “native oysters and clams restoration” in Manatee County
PASCO RAYS: A late-emerging proposal calls for spending $35 million in what was listed in a Senate document as “Sports Training and Youth Tournament Complex” in Pasco County. The Tampa Bay Times reported the money would help cover a new spring training facility for the Tampa Bay Rays, though the Senate document does not specifically mention the Rays.
SNAKE HUNTING: The budget includes $2 million from what is known as the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to continue efforts to remove Burmese pythons and other non-native wildlife from the Everglades. The budget says the money can “be used to purchase and utilize emerging devices and techniques for the removal of Burmese pythons as approved by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.”
STATE ARTIFACTS EYED: The Florida Department of State is slated to get $13.8 million to design and build an artifact curation facility in Tallahassee.
STATE GUARD REVIVED: The state plans to spend $10.7 million to reactivate the Florida State Guard, which hasn’t been active since 1947. DeSantis proposed reviving the guard to help the Florida National Guard during emergencies.
TOOTING THE HORN: The Department of Transportation would get $1 million to market work in road and bridge construction. “The marketing strategy must include components that bring attention to career opportunities that exist at the beginning, middle, and later stages of a person’s career and the availability of these careers to diverse peoples,” the budget said.
ZOOS GET AID: The budget would provide $18.32 million for zoos and aquariums across the state, including money that would go to manatee rescue and rehabilitation.