Florida House & Senate approve initial budgets

House & Senate $2 billion apart on proposed budget, but still shy of governor’s budget

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida House and Senate have now passed their budgets and are ready to begin negotiations on a final product, but everything they’ve approved is subject to change.

The Senate and House are $2 billion apart on their state spending plans. The House’s spending plan clocks in at $97 billion while the Senate version trails closely behind at $95 billion.

Both are short of the governor’s proposed budget, which is just shy of $100 billion with stimulus funding factored in. Neither major party appears happy with some of the decisions made so far.

“This is a starting point,” House Budget Chair and State Rep. Jay Trumbull said. “We still have a very long road to go.”

Cuts to hospital funding are the source of the most frustration.

“Cuts to hospitals, safety-net hospitals, during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic makes no sense,” State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said.

Another sore subject was a 50-percent cut to the affordable housing trust fund called for in the House’s budget.

“We have an affordable housing crisis throughout the entire state,” State Rep. Dotie Joseph said.

However, there is money on the table to shore up funding holes.

The Senate’s budget not only leaves out $2 billion in extra state revenue identified Tuesday, the chamber still hasn’t factored in the expected $10 billion in federal stimulus funding.

Democrats want the money to go directly to Floridians.

“Things like a small business relief system or money to the pockets of our essential workers,” State Rep. Anna Eskamani said.

The House, on the other hand, has allocated the federal dollars, but it would mostly be spent on one-time expenses and beefing up the state’s reserves.

“This is a balanced budget that reflects our beliefs that our state should not spend more than it takes in. We have an obligation to prepare for Florida’s future,” Trumbull said.

With the Senate discussing a similar approach, House Speaker Chris Sprowls is optimistic going into negotiations.

“You know I kind of like how we’re lined up with the Senate. I think that the differences are really not that stark,” he said.

The two chambers have three weeks to reach a final agreement if they hope to end session on time.