| Budget Negotiations Begin|
|This week, the House and Senate negotiators began narrowing their differences in anticipation of finalizing the state’s budget for FY 2022-23. The House went into negotiations with a $105.3 billion budget proposal, while the Senate’s proposal was at $108.6 billion. These are higher than normal, thanks in part to federal stimulus money and higher-than-expected sales tax revenues.|
The House and Senate, unfortunately, have been moving further apart on important budget priorities rather than resolving their differences at the committee level during the conference process. The Senate’s first offer proposed increasing spending $100 million more on storage wells north of Lake Okeechobee, while the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee countered by increasing funding for a statewide flooding and sea level rise grants program from $270 million to $570.9 million. The House proposed increasing funding for alternative water supply from $50 million to $100 million and has also proposed increasing funding for the Florida Forever Land acquisition program from $100 million to $300 million.
Issues that remained unresolved through Thursday evening were “bumped” to the full House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, and Senate Appropriations, chaired by Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, for additional negotiations.
At the heart of these negotiations is SB 2508, Environmental Resources, a budget related bill filed by the Senate Appropriations Committee that revises statutory provisions related to Everglades Restoration and the Rural and Family Lands Program. This controversial bill was met with loud opposition from the Governor, the South Florida Water Management District, and various environmental organizations. Thanks to your advocacy, last week, the Senate released an amendment addressing some of the concerns as they relate to Everglades restoration. However, the bill in its current form significantly changes the Rural and Family Lands Program, setting it up as a competitor program to Florida Forever but without the transparency and accountability we need.
As of last evening, the House budget negotiators on the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee under the leadership of Rep. Josie Tomkow have held firm, not accepting the harmful provisions in SB 2508.
Now it’s in the hands of the full Appropriations Committee to hold the line against these provisions that would harm the Everglades and Florida Forever.
The Regular Session is scheduled to close next Friday, and Florida law requires they must pass a budget to adjourn. With a required cooling off period of 72 hours before the budget may be voted on, negotiators have until March 8 to resolve their differences and still adjourn on time.