Last week, Governor Ron DeSantis released his Freedom First Budget proposal with recommendations for fiscal year 2022-2023. The Freedom First Budget totals $99.7 billion, with total reserves exceeding $15 billion. The Freedom First Budget focuses on preserving freedom and prosperity for Floridians with record funding for education, environmental resources and law enforcement.
“In Florida, we have put Freedom First – protecting Floridians’ freedom to earn a living, to operate businesses and to choose educational options tailored for their children,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “As a result of our commitment to freedom, Florida’s economy continues to thrive and Floridians are better able to provide for their families. Today, I am proud to announce my budget proposals that will build on our foundation of freedom by investing in priorities that matter to our residents. This budget puts Floridians and their freedoms first, keeps taxes low, and addresses key priorities – all while maintaining record budget reserves.”
To read the Freedom First Budget FAQs, click HERE.
Florida Puts Economic Freedom First
The Governor’s budget gives Floridians the freedom to use their incomes to provide for their families, not grow government. The Freedom First budget recommends four tax holidays and the permanent elimination of a fee to allow hard working Floridians to keep more money in their pockets.
- The Freedom First budget includes a Fuel Tax Holiday to provide a reprieve from increasing gas prices and save Florida Families over $1 billion.
- Additionally, it proposes the elimination of fees charged for the issuance of a Florida Identification Card to save Florida families $14.7 million.
Florida’s economy has grown faster than the nation, enjoying 18 consecutive months of job growth, as a result of smart investments and policies that kept Florida open and businesses operating. Investments in rural communities and the tourism industry give Florida communities the freedom to elevate their regions for decades to come. The Freedom First Budget includes:
- $105 million, an increase of $100 million over the current year, for the Rural Infrastructure Fund to support local rural infrastructure projects such as roads, storm, wastewater systems, and internet access for rural communities.
- $100 million for the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to support projects that create workforce training opportunities and invest in critical infrastructure.
- $50 million in recurring funding for VISIT FLORIDA, Florida’s tourism marketing agency.
- Investments in highways, bridges and ports give Floridians the freedom to open and operate businesses, knowing that their goods will swiftly travel through our ports and on our roads. The Freedom First Budget provides $9.27 billion for the State Transportation Work Program.
- The Freedom First Budget invests $25 million to maintain and restore the Freedom Tower, to ensure that the Freedom Tower continues to be a beacon of freedom and serve as a symbol of the democratic values we hold dear.
The Governor believes that children have a right to learn in positive learning environments and parental rights need to be preserved in making educational decisions for their children. Governor DeSantis is proposing record funding for K-12 education and prioritizes teachers and students. Included in the Freedom First Budget are:
- A second round of $1,000 bonus checks for approximately 179,000 teachers and principals in Florida. He is also proposing $600 million – a $50 million budget increase over the past year – for teacher pay, continuing Florida’s efforts to reach a minimum teacher salary of $47,500.
- An increase in per-student funding to raise this year’s budget to $8,000 per student. This will represent the highest amount of per-student funding in Florida’s history.
- The Base Student Allocation increase is $124 per student.
- $421 million for school safety and mental health initiatives. That funding includes $210 million for the safe schools program – an increase of $30 million over the previous year, $140 million for mental health – a $20 million increase over the previous year, $42 million for school hardening grants, and $4 million for safety initiatives at Jewish Day Schools.
- To fully eliminate the Florida Standards Assessment and implement progress monitoring in its place, Governor DeSantis is proposing $15.5 million in recurring funding to provide progress monitoring tools to schools.
- $500,000 to expand access to the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative into every school district in the 2022-2023 school year.
- To make Florida the number one state for Workforce Education by 2030, $534 million in funding to support workforce education programs is included in the proposed budget.
Support for First Responders
Florida supports first responders and service members who protect our freedom. Due to the hard work of Florida’s law enforcement officers, our crime rate decreased last year, marking the 50th consecutive year the state has seen a drop in its crime rate.
While other states want to defund the police, in Florida, our Freedom First Budget backs the blue. Governor DeSantis’ Freedom First Budget includes:
- $226.7 million to provide salary increases for those working in public safety – including 25% raises for all veteran state sworn law enforcement; 20% salary increases for entry-level state sworn law enforcement.
- A $5,000 signing bonus for every recruit who is new to the law enforcement profession in Florida once they complete their training and they officially become a law enforcement officer.
- Providing the State Officer Certification Exam free of charge to law enforcement officers relocating to Florida and covering the cost of any necessary equivalent training programs for relocating officers, up to $1,000 per officer.
- Creating a law enforcement academy scholarship program to cover the cost of enrollment for men and women seeking to serve their state and communities through police work.
Florida is also committed to supporting those who serve. Our National Guard has been called upon time and time again during times of emergency, and we must ensure they are ready to serve Floridians. In the Freedom First Budget, Governor DeSantis is proposing more than $100 million in our National Guard which includes:
- $87.5 million to build three new readiness centers.
- $2.2 million for a new headquarters building for the National Guard Counter Drug Program.
- $5.1 million to fully support Florida National Guardsmen seeking higher education degrees.
- The budget also includes $5.4 million to establish the Florida State Guard to serve Floridians.
- The Freedom First Budget also includes $8 million to implement a program to protect against harms from illegal immigration, and $2.4 million in E-Verify enforcement.
Environment for the Next Generation
Florida’s natural resources are the foundation of our state’s communities. The environment drives tourism, affects property values, anchors many local economies and is central to our quality of life. The Freedom First Budget reaffirms Governor DeSantis’ commitment by recommending more than $4.4 billion to protect our environment and natural resources.
- The Freedom First Budget proposes more than $980 million to restore the Everglades and protect Florida’s water resources. This would bring Florida’s four-year investment to $3 billion, surpassing our goal of $2.5 billion and doubling the investment of the previous four years. This includes:
- More than $660 million for Everglades restoration.
- $195 million for targeted water quality improvements.
- $35 million to improve water quality and combat the negative impacts of harmful algal blooms, including blue-green algae.
This includes $5 million in additional funding dedicated to address red tide cleanup.
- The budget also invests $3 million to remove invasive Burmese pythons from the Everglades, and over $550 million to increase the resiliency of Florida’s coastal and inland communities.
Finally, the Freedom First Budget invests more than $151.7 million to protect our prized properties and waters in Florida, including:
- $100 million for the Florida Forever program.
- $51.7 million for infrastructure improvements and natural resource management at our award-winning state parks.
Support for Health Care
The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to have unforeseen consequences for workers. To support health care freedom and protect Floridians as they make their health care choices, the Freedom First Budget includes:
- More than $200 million in funding to support direct care workers with pay raises.
- $100 million – a $37 million increase – for cancer research.
- $15 million, an increase of $10 million over current year, in funding for Alzheimer’s Disease research to enhance diagnosis and prevention strategies for those Floridians impacted by this disease.
- $188.6 million in behavioral health initiatives including mental health and substance abuse services to ensure Floridians get the help that they need.
- $133 million to provide services to those served by the child welfare system, including foster parent support and adoption subsidies, including:
- $8.9 million towards childcare subsidies for foster parents, assisting them in covering the cost of early education and child care by raising the foster care subsidy up to $300 per month.
- $11.2 million for maintenance adoption subsidies and adoption incentives to aid state employees who make the decision to adopt a child from foster care.