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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

For higher ed, a $6-billion budget 'based on hope and faith'



The Senate higher education budget committee just unveiled a more than $6-billion proposed budget that is built on what Sen. Jim King called "big what-ifs." As in, "if" the Legislature approves the expanding gaming contract with the Seminle Indians. "If" the Legislature votes for an 8 percent base budget hike. "If" both chambers agree to prop up the anemic 2009-10 budget with all federal stimulus dollars available.

"This is a budget based on hope and faith, and to some extent, guesswork," said Sen. Evelyn Lynn, committee chairwoman. "This plan provides our core programs with the support they need to weather the current storm."

The budget cuts most programs by a base 9 percent, though some things including Florida Resident Access Grants for private college students could see 15 percent cuts under the proposal. But then Lynn's committee adds money back in to most programs using projected revenues from the gaming proposal and stimulus dollars.

The $433.3 million Bright Futures budget, for example, hinges on an 8 percent tuition hike and on passage of legislation tightening up Bright Futures eligibility and award rules. Analysts say the changes, including a requirement that students who drop classes reimburse the state for their tuition, could net $50 million in savings.

Lynn said the committee will vote on a final proposal next week.

-- Shannon Colavecchio

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 7:33pm]


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