Highlights from Florida’s new $82.3 billion budget

bags-of-money budget copy

The Florida Legislature is expected on Friday to approve a more than $82.3 billion budget for 2016-17 that is roughly 5 percent larger than this year’s budget. Here are a few key items you should know about:

– EDUCATION: The new budget increases day-to-day public school spending by $458 million, which translates into a 1 percent increase. The per pupil spending amount would be $7,178.49, which is less than Gov. Rick Scott recommended. Legislators also agreed to spend more than $700 million on university, college and school construction projects.

– PROPERTY TAXES: The governor proposed boosting money for public schools but wanted to rely on additional local property taxes. Schools in Florida are paid through a combination of state and local money. Legislators rejected that approach this year and instead proposed a slight trim in local property taxes charged by school districts.

– PAY RAISES: There are no across-the-board pay raises for state workers. But legislators did agree to pay raises for select state employees, including forest firefighters and crime lab analysts.

– TUITION: Tuition rates for college and university students will stay the same in the new state budget.

– PRISONS: Florida’s prison system would get more than $12 million to hire more correctional officers, but legislators rejected a request from the Department of Corrections for more than 700 new positions. The department wanted the positions to switch from 12-hour shifts to eight-hour shifts in Florida’s prisons. Legislators contend that the department already has a lot of vacant jobs and has enough money to switch shifts in some prisons.

– ENVIRONMENT: Legislators agreed to spend $132 million for Everglades restoration and nearly $57 million on water bodies north of the Everglades. They also set aside $32.6 million for beach restoration and $50 million to help restore and improve water quality at the state’s freshwater springs. The budget also includes $8 million for citrus greening research and $500,000 to help reduce conflicts between bears and humans by helping purchase bear-resistant garbage containers.

– HEALTH INSURANCE: Legislators rejected a proposal from Scott that the governor and other top state officials pay the same for health insurance as rank-and-file state workers. Scott currently pays less than $400 a year for family coverage.

– TAXES: State legislators agreed on a tax cut package that is substantially scaled back from what Scott and House Republicans initially proposed. Legislators are expected on Friday to approve a tax cut bill that would permanently eliminate sales taxes for the purchase of manufacturing equipment. The tax cut package also includes a three-day back-to-school sales tax holiday.

– ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Scott wanted $250 million for a “Florida enterprise fund” that would be used to lure new businesses to the state. Legislators ultimately rejected this plan and set aside zero for the fund. Scott has warned this could cost the state new jobs.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Gary Fineout


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