Today, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Freedom First budget for Fiscal Year 2022-2023 which prioritizes the freedoms of Floridians to live, work, and have successful businesses in the state. The budget totals $109.9 billion and includes a record $1.24 billion in tax relief for Floridians.
Florida will have historic reserves at the end of Fiscal Year 2021-2022, totaling more than $20 billion, and reserves for Fiscal Year 2022-2023 are estimated to begin the year at more than $16 billion.
Florida has record levels of reserves while continuing to make historic investments in education, infrastructure, and other programs.
To maintain Florida’s sound fiscal standing in the face of negative economic headwinds due to ill-conceived federal policies, Governor DeSantis vetoed $3.1 billion in spending, setting a new state record by a wide margin.
“Florida has preserved freedom and kept the economy open, which has enabled the state to outperform the nation in jobs, growth, and business formations,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Our commitment to freedom has paid off. Our responsible fiscal policies have put the state in a strong position to make the record investments needed to support growth and opportunity in spite of the reckless fiscal and monetary policies of the Biden administration.”
“Despite the pandemic and reckless spending in Washington, Florida is fiscally stronger than ever because of Governor DeSantis’ leadership,” said Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez. “Our historic investments in the Freedom First budget reaffirm our steadfast commitment to infrastructure, law enforcement, the environment, and education while putting Floridians and their tax dollars first.”
According to the governor’s office, the Freedom First budget gives Floridians the freedom to use their incomes to support their families, instead of supporting more government.
Florida has continued to see economic growth, job growth, and labor force expansion because of meaningful investments in Florida’s communities. To build on this progress and provide relief from the Biden administration’s policies, the Freedom First budget provides $1.24 billion in tax relief to Floridians, including a gas tax holiday that lowers the price of gas in Florida by 25.3 cents and will save Floridians $200 million and a sales tax holiday on diapers and baby clothes for one year, providing $120 million in tax relief.
Florida has supported economic growth directly impacting communities – resulting in 24 consecutive months of job growth and a state unemployment rate lower than the national rate for 17 months.
The Freedom First budget supports economic development by investing $30 million for the Rural Infrastructure Fund, an increase of $25 million over the current year’s budget, and $50 million for the Job Growth Grant Fund for projects that support workforce training opportunities and infrastructure improvements. The budget also invests $400 million to expand broadband, with a focus on rural communities.
Investing in highways, bridges, and ports gives Floridians the freedom to easily access work opportunities and aid in new business development. The Freedom First budget includes more than $11.7 billion for the State Transportation Work Program to support access to economic opportunities – the highest in state history.
The Freedom First budget provides $25 million for the restoration and maintenance of the Freedom Tower, to ensure that this landmark continues to be a beacon of freedom and serve as a symbol of the democratic values we hold dear.
FLORIDA PROMOTES FREEDOM THROUGH HIGH-QUALITY EDUCATION
Florida continues to lead the nation in empowering students and families through educational opportunities. The Freedom First budget provides tools for schools to employ high quality educators and ensure the success of Florida’s students. These investments include $800 million for teacher pay increases, the largest increase in state history. To support student success, the budget provides the highest per student investment of $8,143 in the Florida Education Finance Program, an increase of $385 per student over FY 2021-2022. A historic nearly $400 million for safe school initiatives and mental health initiatives in Florida schools is included to ensure a safe learning environment for students.
For the economic freedom of Floridians, the Freedom First budget includes over $579 million to support workforce education programs to help Floridians fill high-demand, high-paying jobs and meet the state’s goal of becoming the best state for workforce education by 2030. More than $125 million is included for nursing education programs to assist with the nursing shortage through rewarding performance and incentivizing collaboration between nursing programs and healthcare partners.
SUPPORTING FIRST RESPONDERS AND SERVICE MEMBERS WHO PROTECT OUR FREEDOM
Florida continues to make necessary investments in our public safety and prioritize the freedom of law-abiding Floridians. Florida has seen 50 consecutive years of decreasing state crime rate due to policies that promote public safety and back law enforcement and first responders. The Freedom First budget provides local government first responders with $1,000 bonus payments, totaling $125 million, and the Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Payment Program will issue signing bonuses of up to $5,000 for new recruits and out-of-state officers moving to Florida. The budget also includes $5 million for scholarships to help students complete the required training to become a law enforcement officer.
The Freedom First budget supports Florida’s National Guard and military families and reinforces the Governor’s commitment to being the most military friendly state in the nation. Florida continues to invest in programs and resources for military members and their families with a $13.5 million investment towards scholarships for children and spouses of deceased and disabled veterans to welcome military presence in our state. $7.9 million will support our National Guard and emergency response capabilities including a new headquarters for the National Guard Counter Drug Program and support for Florida Guardsmen seeking higher education degrees.
To ensure that Florida is prepared to respond during an emergency, the Freedom First budget provides $10 million to re-establish the Florida State Guard, a civilian volunteer force, to support 400 recruits to aid in Florida’s emergency preparedness for hurricanes and other disasters.
ENVIRONMENT FOR THE NEXT GENERATION
Florida’s natural resources are the foundation of our state’s communities and are central to our quality of life, tourism, and economy. The Freedom First budget will bring the four-year total investment in Everglades restoration and the protection of water resources to more than $3 billion, doubling the investment of the previous four years and surpassing the goal set four years ago. This includes $500 million for Everglades restoration projects and more than $558 million for targeted water quality improvements to achieve significant nutrient reductions in key waterbodies across the state. $75 million is included in the budget to restore Florida’s world-renowned springs.
To support conservation of Florida’s natural lands, the Freedom First budget includes $733.3 million to protect our waters and prized properties while ensuring that Floridians can access to enjoy our state-owned lands. $468 million will go to the Florida Forever Program, and $264 million in record funding is included for infrastructure improvements and resource management of Florida’s award-winning state park system.
The budget includes a $35 million investment to improve water quality and combat the effects and impacts of harmful algal blooms, including blue-green algae and red tide.
The budget also includes $30 million for the care and management of manatees, including $20 million to enhance and expand the number of manatee acute care facilities and to restore spring access and habitat restoration in manatee concentrated areas.
Florida’s environment has been affected by invasive, non-native species like the Burmese Python that disrupt the natural food-chain and further threaten endangered species. The Freedom First budget provides up to $3 million for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to remove pythons from the Everglades, an increase of $2 million over the current year.
FLORIDA SUPPORT FOR HEALTH CARE FREEDOM
Florida has placed the freedom of Floridians to make their own health care choices above what the federal government wishes to force upon people. The Governor has prioritized the health of Floridians by supporting our state’s health care force, putting Seniors First, helping combat the opioid epidemic, and ensuring that veterans and disabled Floridians can receive the care they need. More than $1 billion is included in the budget for providers who serve our aging population, individuals with disabilities, high risk pregnant women and children and who perform organ transplants.
The Governor has prioritized the needs of children who are served by the child welfare system in Florida. The Freedom First budget includes nearly $361 million to provide services for foster parent support, adoption services, and the modernization of the Florida Safe Families Network System. The Freedom First budget includes nearly $70 million for mentorship programs and support to encourage responsible and involved fatherhood. To support foster parents and those who wish to adopt, the budget includes an increase of $15 million over last year’s budget to support adoption benefits for state employees and maintenance adoption subsidies and $24.8 million, an increase of $200 per month, to assist foster parents and relative or non-relative caregivers with covering the cost of childcare.
The Freedom First budget supports Florida’s most vulnerable by dedicating $100 million to support Florida’s National Cancer Institute Program to enhance Florida’s competitiveness in cancer research and care. Additionally, more than $55 million will support equipment updates and medical costs for State Veterans’ nursing homes and an additional $2 million will assist veterans in the transition to civilian life.
To continue putting Seniors First, a $21 million increase is included for care and assistance for seniors through the Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative and the Community Care for the Elderly Program which will allow more than 2,000 seniors the freedom to receive services in their homes.
The need for behavioral and mental health services has increased across the state and is a priority of both the Governor and First Lady Casey DeSantis. The Freedom First budget includes nearly $294 million for community based behavioral health services and operations of state mental health treatment facilities including treatment services to address mental health issues like reducing overdoses, suicides and helping break the cycle of hospitalization and homelessness.