Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed a $101 billion budget that includes raises for teachers, police, and other first responders.
The Republican governor signed the state’s largest-ever spending plan during a bill-signing ceremony in New Smyrna Beach, after vetoing $1.5 billion, including $1 billion in federal money for an emergency response fund he said had strings attached that made it unusable.
The state’s spending plan is an increase of more than $9 billion from the previous year, boosted by $6.9 billion in federal funds. The budget year starts July 1.
During the event, DeSantis lauded the state’s handling of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, saying that fully opening Florida to business early helped in recovering the economy.
“A lot of people were trying to tell me to close restaurants like this last summer. We didn’t do it. We kept business open, we got kids in school,” DeSantis said. “The result was our economy really started to rebound.”
The state budget will see more than 175,000 teachers and 3,000 principals, as well as first responders receive a $1,000 check. It also includes $22.4 billion for K-12 schools and $550 million to hike up teacher salaries to a minimum of $47,500.
“Once I sign this budget, we will be signing a budget that responsibly supports our men and women in law enforcement, our K-through-12 education students and teachers, conserves and protects our great environmental and natural resources throughout the state of Florida, but does so in a way that has the lowest per-capita tax burden of any state in the country,” DeSantis said.
He added, “If you would have said that a year ago, no one would have believed that that would have been possible.”
The minimum wage for government workers will also be raised to $13 an hour as part of the budget, while state attorneys, public defenders, and district court judges will get a 10 percent pay raise.
“We did all this while maintaining strong fiscal reserves and lowering taxes to make sure Florida families benefit this year and for decades to come,” DeSantis added in a statement.
The governor’s veto included $1.35 billion from federal funds that the state had received under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan. DeSantis told reporters Wednesday that those funds will be no longer be set aside for emergency funds and future budget needs, as proposed by state lawmakers, but will instead be made available for other uses.