Florida governor’s final budget reflects a new spending record
BRADENTON, Fla. – Florida Gov. Rick Scott has endorsed another record budget for the state, proposing a $87.4 billion spending plan for fiscal 2019.
Scott’s final budget represents a $2.5 billion or nearly 3% increase over current appropriations, which also amounted to record spending. The proposed general revenue budget is $32.2 billion.
After pitching portions of his 2019 budget in numerous stops around the state, Scott unveiled the full spending plan Tuesday at Northern Tool + Equipment, a business in Jacksonville.
“I am proud to announce my budget, which cuts taxes and makes historic investments in education, transportation and Florida’s environment,” he said. “We have to have another good budget.”
Scott, a Republican who is term-limited out of office in early 2019, is requesting $180 million in tax cuts in what he calls “Securing Florida’s Future” budget. A portion of the general revenue budget will be supported by sweeping $161 million from various trust funds earmarked for specific programs.
Reserves would total $5.1 billion under his plan, which consists of $1.4 billion from general revenues, $1.5 billion in the budget stabilization fund, $1.4 billion from various trust funds, and $749 million from the Lawton Chiles Endowment Fund, where a portion of the state’s tobacco settlement is deposited for related health and research programs.
Scott is also recommending that $739.1 million of bonds be authorized for Department of Transportation projects that he believes will offer a return on investment of more than 4 to 1.
The spending plan includes $220 million for environmental programs, $50 million more for improvements to state parks, $53 million to fund the state’s opioid problem, and a slight increase in education funding.
State employees won’t get raises, although Scott set aside payroll increases for law enforcement, juvenile detention and probation, and forest firefighters. He’s proposing to hire 565 full-time employees, most within the Department of Corrections. As a partial off-set, 262 state workers will lose jobs.
His plan fully funds the normal costs and actuarially required contribution for the state’s pension plans.
The Legislature will consider the budget in an early session next year that convenes Jan. 9.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, was non-committal about Scott’s budget.
“We appreciate the governor's recommendations on the budget and welcome working with him to do what is right for Florida taxpayers,” Corcoran said in a statement. “We are confident that together with the governor and Senate we can produce a budget that cuts taxes, imposes accountability and transparency, and ensures the future fiscal health of the state.”
Some critics linked Scott’s broad-based budget to the fact that he is considering running for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s seat next year. Nelson, a Democrat, has held the seat since 2001.
“Governor Scott’s budgets have always reflected the same self-serving politics that have defined his career,” said a Florida Democratic Party statement Tuesday, that also pointed to numerous cuts Scott made in past years. “Today’s budget is more of the same.”