House, Senate settle budget issues
House and Senate budget chairmen said Thursday they have reached common ground on several major spending differences, which likely sets the stage for smooth negotiations over the next week. Rep. Ray Sansom, R-Destin, the House budget chairman, said he and his Senate counterpart, Lisa Carlton, are in accord on the following issues:
* No increase in school property taxes to fund public schools (Senate agreed to House position). "There's not going to be a property tax increase," Sansom said. "They (senators) recognized that was an important position for the House."
* A scaled-back, seven-day back-to-school sales tax holiday in August on school items excluding books, which will reduce tax revenue by about $23-million (Senate agreed to House position).
* The diversion of about $333-million in transportation spending dollars to the general revenue fund for various uses (Senate met the House halfway).
* A $300-million borrowing program for Florida Forever, a land acquisition program (House agreed to the Senate position).
* An increase in various court system filing fees totaling about $83-million to alleviate cuts in the judicial system (House agreed to the Senate position).
The two budget negotiators have not come to terms yet on whether to use money from the health-care fund known as the Lawton Chiles Endowment to keep some Medicaid services afloat. The Senate wants to spend about $159-million from the fund.