The new Florida budget: here’s how these special interests made out, from bears to leaf blowers to the beef industry

Florida black bear
Florida black bear. By Barb Elkin via iStock for WMNF News.

By Jim Turner ©2024 The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — A $117.46 billion budget that Florida lawmakers approved last week includes big-ticket items such as a 3 percent pay raise for state employees, a $240 bump in per-student school funding, $13.99 billion for transportation projects and $702 million for Everglades restoration.

But the budget, which drew almost unanimous support Friday and is headed to Gov. Ron DeSantis, includes a lot more than that, including money for special interests.

The fine print of the 500-plus-page document includes money for more than 1,500 programs and projects that lawmakers want to bring back to their communities and vast amounts of details about how the money would be spent. Here are some examples:


Franklin County would get $683,500 for residential trash containers that would be resistant to bears.


The Cattle Enhancement Board would receive $1 million for research designed to expand uses of Florida beef and to market the state’s cattle industry.


In an effort to consolidate Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services offices in Tallahassee, $80 million would go toward a new building at the Conner Complex, several miles east of the Capitol.


A $5 million item in the budget would create a program to help purchase such things as hearing aids and assistive listening devices for children.


The budget includes $35 million for structural work on the historic Hotel Ponce de Leon, which is part of Flagler College in St. Augustine.


The Department of Environmental Protection would get $100,000 to conduct a “life cycle” analysis of gas-powered leaf blowers, compared to electric and battery-operated equipment.


The budget includes $200,000 for the Sunshine State Games, $500,000 for the Florida International Seniors Games and State Championships and $2.75 million for the 2025 World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships.


The budget includes $150,000 to determine the feasibility of buying land in the the town of Marineland, with a document saying the study would look at “resilience, housing opportunities, educational opportunities, and infrastructure for the surrounding communities and tourists.”


The Ed and Ethel Moore Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program would receive $1.5 million to study the effects of daily multivitamin use on improvement in people’s cognitive function and associated cost impacts on the Medicaid long-term care program or state inmates over age 65.


The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission would receive $3.1 million to expand the management and removal of Burmese pythons and other non-native species.


The Florida Department of Health would receive $1 million to study the long-term health impacts of exposure to blue-green algae and red tide toxins on residents, visitors and people who are exposed through their jobs.


The Department of Management Services would receive up to $2.5 million to renovate the Cabinet meeting room in the lower level of the Capitol.


Part of the budget includes $47.53 million to help convert properties from septic tanks to sewer systems in Brevard County, Charlotte County, Flagler County, Seminole County, Cocoa City, Estero, Homestead, Miami Lakes, Naples Bay, Oakland, Riverside Village, St. Augustine, St. Lucie Village and Zephyrhills. A separate $20 million would go for septic-to-sewer and wastewater projects around Biscayne Bay.


The Water School at Florida Gulf Coast University would get $25 million to identify and analyze impaired rivers and determine the root causes of the problems.

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