The Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 2500-A, Appropriations, completing the constitutional requirement to pass a state budget for fiscal year 2015-16 on Friday, June 19. The Senate unanimously passed the budget and the Florida House of Representatives approved the budget with a vote of 96-17. Legislators returned to Tallahassee June 1 after failing to pass a budget during their regular session. State government would have been partially shut down if a new budget was not in place by July 1. The total budget is $78.7 billion and Governor Rick Scott signed the budget into law on Tuesday, June 23. The balanced budget includes unprecedented K-12 education funding, $400 million to reduce the tax burden on Florida families and businesses, funding to preserve Florida’s environment and natural resources, over $3 billion in savings for Florida’s future and $450 million to help offset the loss of federal low income pool funding. “Addressing the $1.2 billion loss in federal Low Income Pool funding was a difficult task,” said Senate President Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando).
“Utilizing $450 million in general revenue to pay for services our community and safety net hospitals provide to Medicaid patients and the uninsured in our communities meant we had limited flexibility to invest in other important priorities. However, absent the free-market expansion of coverage advocated by the Senate, investing general revenue was the only fiscally-responsible choice before us.” “Florida’s 2015-216 balanced budget prioritizes education and funding for adults and children with unique abilities,” continued President Gardiner. “We allocated unprecedented K-12 funding, doubled performance funding for our state university system, and promoted economic independence for people with unique abilities by funding meaningful programs to enhance opportunities for academic and career success. The budget sets aside $400 million for broad-based tax relief and highlights voter approved environmental priorities including acquisition of new conservation lands, restoration of Florida’s springs and Everglades, and increased funding that will ensure we better manage and expand public access to state-owned conservation lands.” For additional information on the state budget, please visit www.FLSenate.gov.