Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford released proposed allocations for spending next year, and the plan is clearly boosted by revised forecasts giving lawmakers $150 million more general revenue to spend next year.
The biggest headline is that Weatherford’s proposed $10.8 billion in pre-K-12 education is $165 million more than what Gov. Rick Scott’s proposing in his proposed budget and $335 million more than this year. In higher education, Weatherford is hoping to spend $3.6 billion, or about $500 million more than Scott.
The Senate still has to release its allocations, which are expected soon. The two chambers must then settle on spending in a budget to be voted on in May.
Here’s Weatherford’s letter to House members:
Due to improved economic conditions and the continued fiscal constraint of the Legislature, our state is well on the road to financial recovery. It remains vitally important to maintain the disciplined fiscal principles that led us to where we are today but also recognize that the state can now afford to return revenues to the taxpayer in addition to funding state priorities. The allocations are the result of careful deliberations and are designed to ensure the following funding goals:
· Provide historic General Revenue tax relief
· Maintain in excess of $1.2 billion in General Revenue reserves
· Provide the largest FEFP in Florida history and in excess of a 3 percent increase in per student funding in our public schools
· Increase funding in our institutions of higher learning as well create performance incentive funding for our universities.
· Eliminate the critical waiting list for persons with disabilities
· Provide strategic funding to ensure Florida’s children are protected and have enhanced assistance in our judicial system.
· Ensure public safety through appropriately funding our correctional and judicial system.
· Protect and enhance Florida’s environment by a comprehensive and balanced approach to water supply and quality, as well as to purchase lands to preserve Florida’s unique natural resources and provide recreational opportunities.
· Provide significant long term investment in infrastructure in our roads and public education facilities. Boost one-time funding for infrastructure of state buildings, parks, as well as public libraries, cultural and historic facilities.