Gov. Ron DeSantis has rolled out his budget proposal for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. It follows through on key campaign promises like environmental protection, education and infrastructure.
Dubbed the “Bold Vision for a Brighter Future,” DeSantis is laying out an ambitious agenda. Totaling $91.3 billion, the governor is asking for almost $1.95 billion more than the current year’s funding.
“If you look the $91.3 billion top line is an increase over the enacted budget of the current fiscal year," said DeSantis. "But you also have to look at – I mean you’re seeing big increases because of the disaster, and these are things that we obviously have to attend to. So I think all told, this is not a budget that is spending money unnecessarily.”
Keeping true to his promise to protect Florida’s environment, DeSantis is calling for $625 million for Everglades restoration, and over $150 million to improve the state’s water quality. This includes a septic-to-sewer cost sharing program with local governments, and toxic algae research.
"I think with the water: people want us to tackle it," DeSantis said. "And so I’m serious about doing it and we’re going to get it done.”
DeSantis is recommending fulling funding Florida Forever, a program for buying conservation land. Environmental advocate group Florida Conservation Voters is praising the move.
DeSantis also wants a major boost to education funding. Included in his proposal is a record $22 billion for K-12 public schools. Per-student funding would top $7,600, an increase of $200 per student from this year.
The governor wants to devote $50 million to school safety. Part of that is rolled over from this year's Guardian Program funding, which places armed guards on school campuses. Much of this year’s funding went untouched as many school districts chose to opt out.
DeSantis is also asking for $10 million for student mental healthcare, something many educators and lawmakers sought after last year’s Parkland massacre.
Not included in DeSantis’ education package are college and university tuition increases.
Senate President Bill Galvano and DeSantis see eye-to-eye on at least one issue. His proposal includes almost $10 billion for infrastructure projects, including highway construction and expansion, seaport and airport improvements, and bridge maintenance. At this week's AP legislative preview, Galvano called for expediting transportation corridors.
"So often those [rurual] communities get forgotten, economically and otherwise," said Galvano. "So I’ve asked that committee to look at extending the Suncoast Parkway as a corridor with multi-use, to the State of Georgia.”
DeSantis is throwing his support behind the Senate’s plan.
"I’m totally interested in their ideas," said DeSantis. "I think there’s a lot we can do with infrastructure. We’ve started to highlight our approach as focused on relieving congestion in some of these really difficult areas like Miami and Central Florida, and embracing innovation and technology. So we’re going to continue to do that.”
As for budget cuts, the governor is seeking a nearly $300 million reduction to local property taxes. He wants to add two sales tax holidays – one for back-to-school shopping and one for hurricane season – which would cost the state $45 million in taxes.
Galvano said he will be closely monitoring the state’s revenue estimating conference when considering DeSantis’ beefy budget.
In an unprecedented move by the state’s Democrats, House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee told reporters the caucus will release its own proposal this year. McGhee said it wil "take Florida by storm."
Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson offered rare bipartisan support for many of DeSantis’ requests. In a statement, Gibson said she is encouraged by the Governor’s “commitment to priorities Democrats have long-embraced,” citing education and the environment.