Florida lawmakers pass $112B budget, end contentious session
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida lawmakers on Monday passed a $112.1 billion state budget containing pay raises for state workers and a gas tax suspension, striking a bipartisan agreement that closed a session characterized by high-profile partisan battles.
The GOP-controlled House and Senate approved the spending plan on near unanimous votes with no debate.
The bill had broad support in the statehouse with Democrats and Republicans backing its minimum wage increase for state workers, pay boosts for teachers and law enforcement, arts funding, state tax suspensions and more. It also meets many budgetary priorities set by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is up for reelection this year and is expected to sign it into law.
“I’m really proud to see a lot of the stuff that came across the finish line,” DeSantis said at a news conference after the measure passed.
The proposal marked a rare moment of harmony in this year’s 60-day session, which was extended because of drawn out budget negotiations, as lawmakers fought over bills involving abortion and education about race, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The budget raises the minimum wage for state workers to $15 per hour and all state workers will get a 5.38% pay raise to account for inflation. It would also give public defenders and assistant state attorneys a $5,000 to $10,000 pay increase, boost the minimum salary for state law enforcement officers to $50,000 and raise the minimum salary for teachers to at least $47,500.
Addressing a proposal from DeSantis, the budget includes a one-month gas tax suspension in October, paid for by federal coronavirus relief dollars. Republicans have said lawmakers chose October, a month before the statewide elections, because there are typically less tourists in the state at that time.
The governor in December had asked lawmakers to pause the state’s gas tax for five months, in response to inflation he blamed on Democratic President Joe Biden. Nationwide since then, calls to suspend gas taxes have gained momentum as gas prices rise to record highs after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
During budget debate Friday, Democrats criticized a provision that bars 12 school districts that violated the state’s ban on mask mandates from accessing a pool of money used to reward well-performing districts. House Republicans had originally wanted those districts to face a $200 million penalty but that measure was not included in the final budget bill.
The passage of the budget marked the end of the legislative session. Lawmakers are expected to have to return to the statehouse for a special legislative session to redraw congressional districts, a process that stalled in recent weeks.