Budget Watch - House and Senate Budgets for FY2020-21
With a little over two weeks remaining in the 2020 Legislative Session, there is still much to be decided about how more than $90 billion in taxpayer money will be spent next year. The General Appropriations Act is the only bill the Legislature is constitutionally required to pass. Budget conference negotiations will formally begin soon, likely next week. Since lawmakers are constitutionally required to wait 72 hours before a final vote, a mutually agreed-upon budget must be produced by Tuesday, March 10 in order for an on-time finish of the session on Friday, March 13.
Both chambers passed their budgets with unanimous votes. Although common in the Senate, a unanimous vote on the budget has not happened in the House for quite some time. The Senate budget (SB 2500) totals $92.832 billion while the House (HB 5001) comes in at $91.370 billion. This $1.5 billion difference must be addressed. The two chambers must agree on every number and word in the more than 400-page appropriations bill.
There are major issues where the chambers are very close or already agree, such as the level of funding for public schools and the elimination of the Best and Brightest Teacher & Principal programs. It also appears that both teachers and state employees will get a pay increase, but there are major differences in how those raises with be implemented. Both chambers also agree on putting more than $625 million towards the protection and restoration of Florida’s valuable water resources, but there are differences in how those funds will be allocated.
Then there are issues where there is a wide gulf between the House and Senate, such as the continuation of VISIT FLORIDA, trust fund sweeps, funding for affordable housing, and educational capital outlay. There are also more than 1,200 local projects requested by individuals members, most of them requested in only one of the budgets.
As we prepare to head into conference, this analysis looks at what is in the two budgets and what the major differences are.