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This year, the Florida Legislature passed a budget I believe is an extremely positive step for our state. The state’s budget is a result of months of work and meetings between legislators and the general public. The result is a fiscally responsible budget that makes strong financial investments in our state’s future without having to raise taxes on Florida’s families or businesses.
This budget makes education and infrastructure a priority. It increases funding for critical areas of our state budget while at the same time providing tax breaks for businesses that are creating the jobs that continue to get Floridians back to work. We also made responsible decisions to put more money into the state’s reserve funds than ever before, $2.8 billion.
Each year, Florida’s education budget is comprised of federal, state and local dollars. This year’s budget provides more state funding toward education than the Florida Legislature has ever allocated for our students before. While the budget increases education funding by $1.5 billion, it also increases per student funding by over 6% for our public schools and increases funding for the State University System by $300 million.
Recognizing that good teachers are the key to the success of our students, the budget sets aside $480 million to increase the pay for the teachers in our classrooms across the state. These raises will be given out based on merit and evaluations done by local school boards who interact with these teachers on a day-to-day basis.
We’re also able to make significant investments in our state’s economic future by fully funding the Florida Department of Transportation’s $8.5 billion “Work Plan,” which helps keep Florida’s highways the best in the country. Additionally, this budget invests almost $200 million for economic development programs I believe will help create jobs all across our state.
This budget also increases the pay for state and university employees, who haven’t received raises in almost six years, and our law enforcement officers.
We’ve made strengthening Florida’s safety net a major priority. The budget includes $996.3 million for Medicaid Price Level and Caseload increases while fully funding the anticipated growth of Kidcare. We also allocated $24.2 million to increase those serving on the Agency for Persons with Disabilities Medicaid Home and Community Based Services Waiver by approximately 750 individuals. This budget also provides $40.2 million for program deficits from last fiscal year.
We also recognize how important the Everglades are for our state and made the responsible decision to set aside $78 million for Everglades restoration and another $81 million for land purchases and conservation easements. As I see it, this budget continues this legislature’s commitment to creating a climate for economic growth, innovation, and job creation in this state by making significant investments in infrastructure and economic development initiatives as well as making the fiscally responsible decision to prepare for the future by placing funds into reserves.
I believe Florida has the most fiscally responsible budget in the country, and when compared to other states, we provide services to our citizens at a much lower cost. All of this makes Florida the best place to live, work, and do business in the country.
Rep. Charlie Stone (R-District 22) represents Levy County in the state Legislature. He can be contacted by writing to 1301 The Capitol, 402 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300 or by calling 850-717-5022.