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Florida Senate, House $1.4 billion apart on budget proposals

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Senate and House released budget proposals Thursday that are about $1.4 billion apart, leaving the chambers with less than six weeks to work out the differences.

The Senate is seeking $92.8 billion for the fiscal year that begins July 1, while the House is proposing a $91.4 spending plan. In total dollars, at least, the House proposal is close to the $91.4 billion recommendation Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced in November. The current state budget is just under $91 billion.

All three proposals include money to raise teachers’ minimum salaries, with the Senate and House proposing $500 million and DeSantis recommending $600 million.

“The Senate budget builds on our commitment to elevate the teachers and school personnel who serve students in our neighborhood public schools,” Senate President Bill Galvano said in a news release announcing the proposal. “Our proposed Senate budget raises per-student funding to an unprecedented level.”

Overall, the Senate is proposing $22.6 billion for public schools and the House is seeking $22.5 billion.

The Senate proposal is an increase of nearly $763 million for schools, or an additional $181.29 per student over the current budget.

The House released its 424-page budget proposal after business hours Thursday with no comment or summary.

The Senate is calling for a 3% across the board raise for state employees, while DeSantis isn’t proposing state worker raises. The Senate proposal also calls for the state picking up the full increase in state employees’ health insurance costs rather than passing it along to workers. The increase is expected to be $640 for an individual and $1,440 for family coverage.

The Senate proposal seeks $125 million for the Florida Forever program to buy conservation land, $25 million more than DeSantis is requesting. The Senate also is seeking about $319 million for Everglades restoration, slightly less than the governor is proposing.

The Senate and DeSantis proposals both include $50 million for Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency. The House budget includes no money for the agency. House Speaker Jose Oliva has made it clear he wants to eliminate the agency.

The House and Senate have until March 10 to work out differences if they want to end their annual 60-day session on time. Once the Legislature approves the budget, DeSantis can veto individual lines in it.