© 2024 WFSU Public Media
WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

DeSantis unveils a $115 billion budget proposal for Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis outlined his $115 billion budget proposal on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023.
Valerie Crowder
Gov. Ron DeSantis outlined his $115 billion budget proposal on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023.

Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to increase state spending on education, road projects and sales tax exemptions in the coming year.

At the State Capitol on Wednesday, DeSantis unveiled a $115 billion budget proposal for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, which starts on July 1. When lawmakers meet this spring, they’ll pass a budget that will eventually end up before the governor.

Floridians would get $1.5 billion in sales tax relief under DeSantis’ plan

The governor’s budget proposal includes permanent sales tax cuts on baby and toddler necessities, cribs and strollers, over-the-counter pet medications and gas stoves.

“They want your gas stove, and we’re not going to let that happen,” DeSantis said. A recent statement by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests that gas stoves might need more regulation, but clarifies there are no intentions to ban gas stoves.

DeSantis’ budget proposal includes one-year sales tax breaks on a variety of items, including:

  • household products under $25
  • toothpaste and floss
  • children’s toys, books and athletic gear
  • pet food
  • natural gas 
  • hand and power tools
  • disaster preparedness items 

The purpose of offering one-year tax breaks on everyday items is to help “address inflation,” explained Chris Spencer, the governor’s budget and policy director. “We’re hoping that a year from now inflation is lower.”
Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book (D-Plantation) has sponsored a measure that would make diapers permanently sales tax free in Florida. “I am glad to see bipartisan priorities in the governor’s proposed budget, such as historic tax breaks for hardworking Floridians,” Book wrote in a statement issued after the governor unveiled his budget.

Education spending would see a slight increase

The governor's education spending plan would continue to fund teacher salary increases. Under the proposal, funding for early childhood education would go down slightly and the state funding for K-12 schools would go up slightly.

The governor's budget would provide $1 billion to raise teacher pay, which amounts to a $200-million funding increase. Despite the governor's efforts to raise beginning teacher pay to $48,500 a year, the state's average teacher salary remains at 48th in the nation, according to data from the National Education Association.

The Florida Education Association, the state's teachers union, is calling for across-the-board pay raises for K-12 instructors and the abolishment of 20 laws that union leaders argue are keeping salaries down.

Andrew Spar, president of the FEA, wrote in a statement that DeSantis' proposed funding increase for teacher pay "will do little for many teachers who are struggling."

On higher education, the governor's proposal includes $1.5 billion for the state's colleges and $3.1 billion for the state university system.

DeSantis is also proposing a one-time investment of $15 million to help New College recruit more faculty. DeSantis called for more funding after recently appointing new, more conservative members to the college's board of trustees. This week the board fired the college's president and put in place former Republic House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who's also DeSantis' former state education commissioner, as interim president.

Recently, the governor has expressed support for eliminating state funding for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion or DEI initiatives at the state's colleges and universities, which wasn't reflected in his budget proposal.

“There will be a statue that the legislature will pass that will basically abolish those offices," DeSantis told reporters on Wednesday. "I think it’s really about furthering ideology, rather than promoting equal treatment.”

Pay raises for state employees would continue next year

All state employees would get a 5% pay raise, with some "harder-to-hire" employees getting 10% pay raises above the average amount paid to those workers.

Here's an overview of some of the employees who would see their pay go up under the governor's budget:

  • Correctional officers' minimum salary would increase to $23 per hour
  • Special agents and other officers within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would get a 4% pay raise above the across-the-board 5% pay raises
  • pay adjustments for all state law enforcement officers and increases for officers based on years of service
  • $5,000 bonuses for new law enforcement officers and officers who relocate from other states

DeSantis wants more funding for roads, resiliency projects

The governor's proposing $14.7 billion for the state Department of Transportation. Of that, $13.4 billion would fund the State Transportation Work Program

Here are some other infrastructure projects the governor has highlighted in his budget:

  • $100 million for broadband deployment in communities that lack access to high-speed internet
  • $30 million in grant funding for rural infrastructure projects
  • more than $1.1 billion for Everglades restoration and water quality projects

DeSantis' budget would fully fund the state's affordable housing trust fund

State funding to support affordable housing has long come from the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Funds. Lawmakers in the past have swept dollars designated for the fund into other spending pots to pay for non-housing expenditures.

DeSantis' budget would allocate $402.7 million to fund the State Apartment Incentive Loan Program (SAIL) and $281 million for the State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program (SHIP).

SAIL funds pay for new affordable housing developments, while SHIP dollars can cover emergency home repairs, downpayment and closing cost assistance and more.

The budget proposal also includes $100 million for the Hometown Heroes Housing Program, which was established last year to help police, firefighters, educators healthcare workers, childcare employees and active military or veterans become homeowners.

This story has been updated.

Valerie Crowder is a freelance journalist based in Tallahassee, Fl. She's the former ATC host/government reporter for WFSU News. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.