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Florida lawmakers pass $101.5 billion budget

Florida's budget includes minimum wage boosts and $1,000 bonuses for some frontline workers.

Florida lawmakers on Friday approved the upcoming fiscal year's budget to the tune of $101.5 billion, with $6 billion being left in state reserves.

The politicians had already hammered out the details, but the formal vote on whether to cut the multi-billion dollar check came after state lawmakers observed a required 72-hour "cooling off" period. That left Friday, the final day of the legislative session, for the vote to take place.

Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R-Lake County) cast the only "no" vote in the House, where SB 2500 sailed through by a 117-1 decision. It now heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis' desk.

According to the Senate, the budget also accounts for $6.7 billion of the $10 billion in anticipated non-recurring federal pandemic relief funds "which will further bolster state reserves." In other words, some of the budget items would be paid for through President Biden's American Rescue Plan funding.

“I do believe we will continue to see some fluctuation and some uncertainty as our economy recovers. With this reality in mind, our budget utilizes available federal funding to makes some significant nonrecurring investments in key infrastructure priorities that will create jobs and further bolster Florida’s recovering economy,” Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) recently said, in part, of the budget.

The budget spans 434 pages and hits an expansive list of topics, allotments and requirements on how the funding is dolled out. 

Floridians can see entries for things like an increase to Visit Florida for tourism hits dished out by the pandemic, to aircraft maintenance, and everything in between. 

But what are some of the larger ticket items in this year's budget? 

Clean-up of the former Piney Point phosphate plant 

Lawmakers set aside $100 million to clean up the wastewater situation at the former Piney Point phosphate plant and ensure its closure. A full collapse at the site was recently avoided, but wastewater flowed into Tampa Bay.

Bonuses for first responders and teachers

Gov. Ron DeSantis had asked for $1,000 bonuses for educators and first responders as a 'thank you' for all their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The governor previously outlined the funding for teachers and school principals will come from the ESSER funds, while bonuses for first responders will dip into federal funding received as a result of the pandemic. 

The budget allocates around $216 million to put money in the pockets of nearly 3,600 principals and 180,000 full-time classroom teachers. First responders will have their funds administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity at around $208 million total.

Minimum Wage

A lump sum of more than $94 million for employee compensation and benefits includes allocating money to ensure an increase in the minimum wage for Floridians.

Under the budget, all eligible state employees' pay will be bumped to $13 per hour started July 1, 2021. The adjustment will put someone who works 40 hours a week just above what the federal government considers a poverty income for a family of four.

Each state agency is also required to develop a plan that includes the estimated costs to implement a $14-$15 minimum wage. Those plans are due by November 1, 2021.

Teacher salaries

Out of the General Revenue Fund, $500 million in recurring funds will be provided for the Teachers Salary Increase Allocation.

Of that, the budget outlines 80-percent will be provided to school districts to increase the minimum base salary for full-time classroom teachers.

Educators will also be required to be paid a base salary no less than $47,500.

Child Welfare System funding

Three separate lump sums will be heading into the systems created to help protect children in Florida. 

Funding will be used to implement child welfare best-practice initiatives like family-finding and to implement evidence-based prevention services "that meet the requirements of the federal Family First Transition Act."

The allocated funding comes in at around $44.2 million. 

You can click here to dig further into the 2021-2022 fiscal budget.

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