Stimulus money from Washington Democrats helps Florida Republicans

TALLAHASSEE – Bonus payments of $1,000 will go to teachers, principals, first responders and correctional officers in Florida as part of a roughly $100 billion state budget finalized Tuesday and powered by $6.6 billion in federal COVID-19 recovery cash.

The move sets the Legislature on course to finish the two-month session by its scheduled deadline, Friday.

Among the late agreements between House and Senate negotiators is a decision to set a $13 minimum wage for all state workers, a $43 million item promoted by Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, in advance of statewide minimum wage increases approved by voters last fall.

Even Gov. Ron DeSantis got in on the pay hikes. He was given $1.2 million to make “salary adjustments” for his agency heads in one of the last-minute deals made by lawmakers.

House budget chair Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, and Senate counterpart Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, have finished work on a roughly $100 billion state budget.

The Republican governor and GOP-controlled Legislature were helped by the American Rescue Plan advanced by President Biden and the Democratic-led Congress, which steered $10.2 billion to state government and erased what had earlier been expected to be a lousy budget year certain to include deep program cuts.

Every Republican member of Congress voted against the Rescue Plan. But DeSantis and Florida Republicans have used it to craft what is certain to weigh in as the biggest budget in state history.