Featured Stories

State Budget Set, with Money for Teacher Pay and Coronavirus Reserves

A nearly $92 billion state budget was finalized Saturday, with Florida House and Senate negotiators reaching Gov. Ron DeSantis’ teacher pay goal.

They also added $300 million to reserves in order to deal with the coronavirus.

The House and Senate ended work on all other bills last Friday.

A key number in the budget is $500 million for raising base teacher salaries to $47,500, which is the level DeSantis has been seeking.

In terms of spending on coronavirus, Senate budget chair Rob Bradley says, “When the (governor’s) proposal was made, we did not have the situation we have in our state and in the country and the world. We make decisions based on the realities that are facing us.”

Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, opines that the the $47,500 salary level is an “aspirational goal,” based on the funding level.

He adds that the increase is an “important down payment in what must be a multi-year investment.”

With coronavirus threatening to reduce state tax collections as tourism and overall consumer spending drops, officials reduced spending on other programs to come up with the extra $300 million, bringing the state’s overall reserves to $3.8 billion.

The state will also be receiving $27 million in federal aid to combat the virus.

Lawmakers hope to publish the budget by Sunday night, starting the constitutionally required 72-hour waiting period before a final vote can be taken.

A budget vote to end the 2020 legislative session will likely take place this Thursday.

The budget is set to take effect July 1.