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Highlights from Florida's new $77.1 billion budget

May 2, 2014
Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Legislature is expected to pass a nearly $77.1 billion budget on Friday before ending its 60-day annual session.

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 and 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. The fee cuts include a rollback of auto registration fees. But legislators have also agreed to a three-day back-to-school sales tax holiday. Shoppers in August will be to purchase clothes, school supplies tax free during that period. Legislators have also agreed to sales tax holidays for energy efficient appliances and hurricane preparation supplies.

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.

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 nearly $77.1 billion, or an increase of more than from last year. It covers spending starting July 1 through June 30, 2015.

 
 

 

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