Speaking to the Caxambas Republican Club just days prior to Thanksgiving, Senator Kathleen Passidomo provided an update on her legislative experience as a freshman senator.
Regarding the budget, there is a projected deficit, which is compounded by the cost of Hurricane Irma to the State. A lot of that cost will eventually be reimbursed by FEMA. But Collier County is still waiting for reimbursements on costs incurred from Hurricane Wilma.
The State may not get all that cost back and these shortfalls have to be accounted for in the State Budget. The House of Representatives wanted to treat the hurricane costs as an operating expense, while the Senate wanted to advance money from the “rainy day” fund. The State has a $3 billion “rainy day” fund and Irma certainly qualifies as a rainy day. The House and Senate each have a budget, and last year they were $4 billion apart. The Senate tended to fund everything. The House wisely yanked them back and finally agreed on a good balanced budget.
According to Bob Rommel, who was also present at the meeting, the House received 400 member project requests, just in Collier County alone. Passidomo remarked that the State would not have the same money it had in in the past year for member projects. An example of a member project is Goodland Road, which was funded last year along with Marco’s Fire Rescue Station project. These two projects would not have been funded this year. The cost of Hurricane Irma has thrown a monkey wrench on a lot of member project requests. Marco has a couple of budget requests for this year and Passidomo said that she will do her best but unlike last year, Marco may end up getting just one or two funded.
Passidomo is the chair of the K-12 appropriations. Of the State’s $84 billion budget appropriations, K-12 is the highest expense. They are looking at putting in a 3% increase this year for K-12 education. They also plan to increase funding dollars for charter schools and Governor Scott also has added to his budget an increase for K-12 education.
The opioid epidemic is a huge problem and we can’t keep our head in the sand according to Passidomo. A bill has come before the Senate from a retired lawyer who volunteers her time with neonatal babies born opioid addicted. The opioid crisis has touched the innocent babies and the bill would create a step down program, so that when the addicted babies are stable enough to leave the hospital, they will be brought to a safe place with nurses, volunteers and cuddlers. This program will also include tracking their progress as they leave the program as many of these addicted babies are born with all kinds of neurological problems.