BRADENTON, Fla. — Florida's largest-ever budget, at $77.1 billion, passed Friday before the end of the Legislature's annual session.
The 2015 fiscal plan tops the current year's record $74.24 billion budget by $2.86 billion.
It now goes to Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, who can potentially strike portions of the budget using his line-item veto authority.
The new spending plan authorizes $2.705 billion in bonds, representing one of the largest authorizations in recent years.
The GOP-led Legislature ultimately approved a budget that is $2.1 billion higher than both chambers proposed before conference committees began meeting. The vote was 102-to-15 in the House and 40-to-0 in the Senate.
The $77.1 billion includes $27.9 billion for the general fund, $1.35 billion in working capital, and $3.1 billion in reserves for the next fiscal year beginning July 1. Total reserves are 10.3% of general revenue funds.
Other portions of the budget consist of federal funds and state revenues that are deposited into various trust funds for specific expenses.
"The general appropriations act proposed by our conference committees funds the critical needs of our state as well as strategic investments in our economy through enhanced funding for education, our transportation infrastructure, cultural and museum programs as well as funding to restore and preserve our environment, while also setting aside substantial savings for Florida's future," said Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.
Gaetz went on to say that the budget also funds numerous programs for children and persons with disabilities.
Some $2.4 billion of bonds — also proposed in Scott's budget — authorized would be used for the Florida Department of Transportation's massive Interstate 4 expansion and renovation project through Orlando, with another $300 million in bonds for turnpike construction projects and right of way purchases.
Legislators added $50 million of bonds to continue financing an advanced wastewater treatment program in the environmentally sensitive Florida Keys. This amount was not included in Scott's budget.
State court system employees, assistant state attorneys, public defenders, and law enforcement officers will get pay raises in the next fiscal years while other state employees will not.
Since at least 2011 the state has used cash, instead of bonds, to pay for education capital needs.
The 2015 budget continues that approach with $590 million allocated to public schools, colleges, university, and special schools. Of the total amount $109.7 million will go toward K-12 schools and $75 million will go to charter schools.
Most of the Legislature is up for reelection this year, along with Scott, and they took advantage of the improving economy and projected rising revenues to pass $500 million in tax breaks.
The largest portion, $395 million, is a rollback in vehicle registration fees that were increased during the lean years brought on by the Great Recession. Scott has already signed that bill into law.
Other tax breaks include three periods in which sales tax will not be collected on school items, hurricane preparedness items, and energy efficient products.
The Legislature's budget also includes permanent exemptions from sales taxes for vehicle child restraint systems and booster seats, youth bicycle helmets, and college and university meal plans.