House, Senate pass budgets
As the Senate and House adopted austere budgets marked by deep cuts in health care and schools Thursday, transplant surgery survivor Mary Ellen Ross had an urgent plea for lawmakers. "Don't make these cuts," Ross said. "I don't want to die."
The 58-year-old Delray Beach woman was referring to one of the most controversial parts of the Senate budget: a $230 million cut in the Medically Needy program that for a decade has helped pay for costly drugs that prevent her body from rejecting a replacement kidney.
The founder of the Florida Transplant Survivors Coalition said the loss of prescription drug subsidies in the Senate budget will force transplant and cancer patients to turn to hospital emergency rooms for help, driving up the cost of medical care for everyone else.
The House budget saves the program, one of many differences in the plans that must be resolved. The proposed House budget is $66.5 billion and the Senate's is $70.1 billion.
Public school spending would drop by more than $1 billion, to the lowest level in five years. And for the first time, public employees will be required to pay toward their pension plans.
Neither includes cuts to the corporate income tax and property tax that have been proposed by Gov. Rick Scott.
Passage of budgets is a prelude to weeks of intense negotiations on a compromise spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The House vote was along party lines, 78-39. More Democrats crossed over in the Senate, where the vote was 33-6. Read more here.