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Fla. House and Senate pass budgets – negotiations begin

Posted by Editor on April 8, 2019
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This past week, the Florida Senate and House passed their respective budgets for the upcoming fiscal year. The Senate’s budget totals $90.3 billion and the House’s budget totals $89.9 billion. That puts them about $400 million apart, so they’re close – now negotiations begin over the details, which will occur over the next four weeks.

Realtor priorities regarding budget issues

Water quality and environmental funding

The House budget includes $607 million to be spent on water quality, Everglades restoration and other environmental projects; the Senate budget includes $660 million. All signs point to a final environmental spending plan that will be close to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal of $625 million.

The overall appropriation for Everglades related projects is $360 million. A third of this money will be used to begin moving dirt on the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir, which will store and clean water released from Lake Okeechobee before it moves south to the Everglades and on to Florida Bay.

There is also a line item in the Department of Transportation (DOT) budget to use money in the DOT trust fund to complete the raising of Tamiami Trail – a huge step in the goal to send more water south through the Everglades and on to Florida Bay. These and other projects should help limit future algae blooms once completed.

Two other important environmental issues to the real estate industry are red tide and septic tanks. The Senate has included $27 million for water quality improvements related to a red tide/blue green algae task force, while the House included $19 million for the same project. There is also a bill that will direct funding to the Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota to study red tide.

On septic tanks, the Senate included a straight $25 million for septic-to-sewer projects, while the House included a dollar-for-dollar match program for city projects up to $50 million.

Housing trust funds

For affordable housing, the Senate’s budget includes full funding of the state’s affordable housing trust funds at approximately $331 million while the House’s budget includes $123 million. The Senate’s budget matches up with the governor’s call for full funding.

The Senate budget includes $170 million for the State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program (SHIP) and $54 million for the State Apartment Incentive Loan program (SAIL). The rest of the funds go towards hurricane housing and rental recovery.

However, the House has zero funding for SHIP and SAIL, and their $123 million budgeted goes exclusively towards hurricane housing and rental recovery.

Florida Realtors will be actively engaged in the budget negotiation process this month to increase the amount proposed in the House budget.

Business rent tax (BRT)

Florida Realtors Tallahassee office says it’s “hearing good news regarding further cuts to the Business Rent Tax (BRT).” The House’s preliminary tax package includes a recurring .35% cut to the current state sales tax rate. If approved, this would drop the state rate to 5.35% and bring a reduction to BRT for the third straight year.

Unlicensed activity

The House and Senate budgets include $500,000 for the Division of Real Estate to combat unlicensed real estate activity.

LiDAR mapping

The House and Senate budgets include language that allows the Division of Emergency Management to continue spending the $15 million currently budgeted for LiDAR mapping. LiDAR is a measuring tool used in natural resource conservation, studying water supply and quality, and coastal zone management.

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

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