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House lawmakers dig into budget details ahead of expected Wednesday vote

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Lawmakers in the House dug into the details of the chamber’s spending plan Tuesday. Measure is scheduled for a floor vote Wednesday.

The House budget proposal totals $105 billion. It’s a 3.6% increase over the current year’s spending plan, but smaller than the Senate’s $108 billion plan.

“This year’s budget builds on last year’s vision to prepare Florida for long term success in directing state dollars in a strategic and intentional way,” said House Appropriations Committee Chair Jay Trumbull (R-Panama City).

During the floor discussion, lawmakers focused the majority of their questions on two of the state’s biggest budget areas—healthcare and education. While funding for school districts is slated to increase over all, Democrats pushed Education Appropriations Chair Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) on a plan that would give a smaller increase to school districts that kept mask mandates in place even after Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order banning those mandates. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) questioned Fine on the move after DeSantis last week came out against it. But Fine said, DeSantis’ stance has changed since language in the bill ensures no student-facing programs will cut.

“After discussions that I have had personally with the governor, the governor is in support of the concept and I understand this is late breaking news. You can look at it now on the great thing called Twitter.”

Fine is referencing a tweet from DeSantis that reads in part “thanks to Speaker Sprowls, Representative Fine, and the House of Representatives for heeding my call to protect students and teachers from accountability measures affecting union-controlled politicians and bureaucrats who defied Florida law.”

Democrats also raised questions about funding for Medicaid, a state and federally funded health insurance program for people with low incomes.

House healthcare appropriations chair, Rep. Bryan Avila (R-Miami Springs) says the number of people enrolled in Medicaid in the state has skyrocketed during the pandemic. And he says that number won’t be reduced as long as the federal government’s public health emergency declaration stays in place.

“Right now, it’s almost about a quarter of the population of Florida is on Medicaid. So, certainly everyone that needs Medicaid is right now within that public health emergency is in Medicaid for that one year duration,” Avila said.

That’s not the only healthcare funding concern. Lawmakers also talked about nursing shortages and a plan to increase reimbursement rates so direct care workers at places like nursing homes can get pay increases.

After a vote on the plans in each chamber, members of the House and Senate will meet in conference to hammer out those differences.

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