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10 things you should know about the FL budget

10 things you should know about the FL budget
Posted June 2nd, 2014 @ 10:17pm

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed a $77 billion budget into law that state legislators passed during their 60-day annual session. Before signing the budget, Scott used his line-item veto power to eliminate nearly $69 million in spending approved by the legislature.

Here are 10 things to know about the spending plan:  

Schools: It boosts spending for public schools by $575 million and would increase per-student funding by about $176. But the increase in school funding relies on a nearly $400 million rise in local property taxes. The new budget includes nearly $600 million in money for construction projects for public schools, universities and colleges. That total includes $75 million for charter schools.

Child Welfare: The state's child welfare agency is getting nearly $50 million for child protection efforts, including hiring nearly 300 employees to help bring down the number of cases handled by investigators.

State Workers: There are no across-the-board pay raises in this year's budget. Legislators did include a 5-percent pay raise for highway patrol troopers and other state law enforcement officers. There are also pay increases for court employees, assistant prosecutors and public defenders. 

Health Care: The budget does increase overall spending on Medicaid, the state's safety net program. But the budget does not include any federal aid to expand Medicaid eligibility to roughly 1 million Floridians. Legislators have also set aside money to provide services to 1,260 disabled people on a waiting list.

Health Insurance: Florida legislators kept intact low-cost health insurance for legislative staff, Gov. Rick Scott and other top state officials. Scott, a multimillionaire, currently pays less than $400 a year for family coverage. He had recommended raising the cost. Legislators pay the same higher rate as other rank-and-file state workers.

Taxes: Lawmakers agreed to cut taxes and fees by $500 million as part of the budget package. Scott has already signed them into law. The fee cuts include a rollback of auto registration fees as well as three separate sales tax holidays. Shoppers in august will be able to purchase clothes, school supplies tax free during that period.

Tuition: There are no university tuition hikes included in the budget this year. Plus, legislators have passed a bill that would curtail the ability of universities to charge tuition above the rate set annually by legislators. Scott is expected to sign the bill.

Environment: Legislators set aside $170 million for projects intended to help the Indian River Lagoon and other water bodies dealing with discharges from Lake Okeechobee. There's also $30 million for protect Florida's springs and $25 million for beach restoration. 

Economic Development: Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing arm, got an increase in funding from $63 million to $74 million. Gov. Rick Scott had asked for $100 million. 

Budget Total: The final budget is roughly $77 billion, which is an increase of about 3.7 percent over the budget the governor signed last year. It covers spending starting July 1 through June 30, 2015. This year's budget vetoes were Scott's lowest since he came into office in 2011.

Photo Credit Getty Images


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