Goal remains to hold education harmless
Florida's school district officials remain nervous that the passage of Amendment 1 will cost education millions. Legislative leaders want to reassure them that a promise is a promise, even if it's tough to carry out.
"Our goal is to not harm education. When we get back to Tallahassee, we're going to have to reprioritize the budget," state Rep. Will Weatherford (left), the Wesley Chapel Republican who's in line to become speaker in a few years, told the Gradebook. "I think everything is on the table. At least, in my opinion it should be."
Weatherford, who sits on the Policy and Budget Council, said that he sees the new tax law as a way to lift some of the burden of education funding off local property taxes and put it back in the state's hands.
He added that a proposal to scale back the class-size amendment to school averages, now in the hands of the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, only could help the effort by freeing up resources that otherwise will go to school construction.
"I would love to see an amendment to do that," Weatherford said. "That would be a real victory for the state of Florida."
Senate Majority Whip Paula Dockery (right), R-Lakeland, told the Gradebook it's going to be tough to continue funding education at the same level, especially since local taxpayers increasingly have shouldered a bigger share over the past decade. Yet Dockery, who sits on the Senate Education Appropriations Committee, said she and others remain committed to that goal.
"The state is going to need to make up the difference," she said.
Asked for specifics on how to get there, Dockery pointed to $491-million in the budget slated to help CSX improve its track system. It's a for-profit company that made a profit, she said, and it can use its own money for that purpose. "There's one."