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State Lawmakers Favor Spending on Teacher Raises, Tourism and Affordable Housing

As state lawmakers move closer to finalizing a $92 billion budget, they are also monitoring the global spread of the coronavirus, which could end up disrupting the anticipated revenues needed for major items in their spending plan.

“It’s a serious concern,” says Republican House Speaker Jose Oliva. “It’s a concern because we are making some strong spending commitments in areas that everyone can support, but they’re strong recurring spending commitments.”

On Saturday, lawmakers agreed to put more than $500 million into teacher pay raises, which is a three percent across-the-board raise for state workers. They also decided to preserve the full $387 million in the affordable housing trust fund and to set aside $50 million for Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing organization.

Each one of those initiatives could instead see cuts if the coronavirus affects tourism.

“We’re all concerned primarily for the lives of Floridians and all of our brothers and sisters around the world,” says Senate budget chief Rob Bradley. “The governor and his team are on the case and they’re being very aggressive in dealing with it.”

DeSantis recently asked lawmakers for $25 million to help fight the threat of the coronavirus, which has already resulted in two deaths in the state.

However, Oliva says people should go about their lives and not give in to “panic” over the virus.

He adds, “There is a difference between legitimate concern – and we should all be very legitimately concerned – and panic. When we begin to act in a panicked way the structures of things around us begin to crumble and then we get ourselves into a situation that a special session cannot repair.”