Florida's new governor enacts record $90.1 billion budget

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed his first budget into law, a blueprint for spending a record $90.1 billion in fiscal 2020.

In addition to approving the budget Friday, DeSantis vetoed $131 million of cash spending for capital projects requested by lawmakers. The budget goes into effect July 1.

The funding plan placed $2.74 billion in reserves, a portion of which goes to the stabilization account for emergencies. The state also has access to another $1.7 billion in unallocated revenue in various trust funds, and anticipates receiving $18 million in reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for hurricane clean-up costs.

DeSantis, a Republican narrowly elected last fall after getting the backing of President Donald Trump, also approved the use of $446.7 million in bonds to finance Florida Department of Transportation projects. The amount is less than half of what former Gov. Rick Scott approved in his last budget in 2018.

The budget report says $451.42 million of debt for transportation project funding was authorized in prior budget years but remains unissued.

The governor touted increased education funding for K-12 students, higher spending for new environmental programs, and $400 million in tax relief for residents and businesses.

“It’s a fiscally responsible budget,” DeSantis said. “I think we put taxpayers first, but I think the key issues that Floridians care about, things like environment, things like education, things like transportation, we were there to really make a difference,” DeSantis said.

Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said he respected DeSantis’ “prerogative to exercise his line item veto authority.”

“While we do not agree with every decision, it is clear that Gov. DeSantis takes his responsibility very seriously and that he has remained open-minded and approached the review process very deliberatively,” Galvano said in a statement. “In just a few short months we will return to Tallahassee to begin the process of crafting the budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, and we will have another opportunity to address the needs of our constituents.”

The tax relief package in the budget includes a hurricane preparedness sales tax holiday, which took place May 31 to June 6, as well as a back-to-school tax holiday set for Aug. 2 through Aug. 6. Both of those are periods during which state sales taxes are not collected on specified items.

Next year’s budget will also reduce the sales tax on commercial rents to 5.5% from the current 5.7%.

The spending plan includes a $10.8 billion budget for FDOT that DeSantis said would relieve congestion and implement technology to modernize the state’s infrastructure.

Through the cash and borrowing plan, FDOT will use $3.8 billion to increase system-wide infrastructure capacity, including 125.7 new miles of construction; $2.7 billion for highway construction; and $1.1 billion for repairs on 84 bridges and replacement of 22 bridges.

FDOT will also spend $1.1 billion for the maintenance and operation of existing facilities; $668.1 million for transit programs; and $438 million for airport and port improvements.

The 2020 budget also includes $2.9 billion of projected funding as a result of Hurricane Irma in 2017 and Hurricane Michael in 2018, and spending toward future hurricane preparedness.

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