Florida Gov. DeSantis signs 2020-2021 budget: Teacher salaries, Everglades restoration

On Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the state budget for Fiscal Year 2020-2021. The budget totals $92.2 billion, provides over $350 million in tax relief and includes more than $1 billion in vetoed spending.

Image/State of Florida

“Despite the present challenges Florida faces due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Budget ensures the state’s priorities are protected and funded,” said Governor DeSantis. “Our current economic landscape is vastly different since the Legislature passed this budget in March. As Governor, I must remain a mindful steward of taxpayer dollars. This budget reflects a steadfast commitment to Floridians by safeguarding important investments in key areas including education, the environment, infrastructure, public safety and more. As we move forward with our Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan for Florida’s Recovery, we will overcome the adversities before us and emerge stronger than before.”

A few of the highlights are described below:

K-12 Education

Governor DeSantis vowed to make 2020 the “Year of the Teacher” by making historic investments in our K-12 education system. The budget includes $500 million to raise the minimum K-12 teacher salary into the Top 5 nationwide and increase salaries for veteran teachers and other eligible instructional personnel. The budget also includes record per student funding of $7,793, an increase of current year spending by $137 per student.

Environment

The budget continues Governor DeSantis’ record investments in Florida’s environment and water quality, providing more than $625 million for Everglades restoration and the protection of water resources.

Included in this investment is more than $322 million for Everglades restoration projects, $50 million for springs restoration, $160 million for targeted water quality improvements, $40 million for alternative water supply, and $25 million to combat harmful algal blooms and red tide. With this budget, Governor DeSantis is more than halfway to his goal of securing $2.5 billion for Florida’s environment.

Additionally, the budget includes $100 million for Florida Forever, the state’s premier conservation and recreation lands acquisition program to ensure the conservation and preservation of our natural resources for future generations.

Transportation and Infrastructure

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the state has not lost its focus on critical transportation infrastructure and hurricane recovery needs. The budget provides $9.2 billion for the State Transportation Work Program, including $2.5 billion for highway construction, $400.5 million for aviation improvements, $885.5 million for rail/transit projects and $236.4 million for safety initiatives.

Additionally, the budget includes $1.3 billion in in federal and state funding for communities to respond to, recover from, and mitigate against major disasters or emergencies. Further, the budget provides $10 million for state-level election oversight activities, with a focus on cybersecurity enhancements to Florida’s election system.

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