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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Sen. Tom Lee faults Gov. Rick Scott's budget, built 'on the backs of local taxpayers'



You can add the influential voice of Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, to the list of Republicans howling about Gov. Rick Scott's budget -- and its heavy reliance on higher property tax bills.

As Lee's committee prepares to wade through, amend and pass its first budget proposal Wednesday, Lee had choice words for Scott's plan to increase spending for public schools by taking advantage of higher property values for homes and businesses.

"We're building the increase on the backs of local taxpayers and then we're running around the state and doing a victory lap," Lee told the Times/Herald. "I'm opposed to the way we are funding public education largely on the backs of local taxpayers."

An alternative plan developed by Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, would divert about $254 million in state tax revenue to the public school budget, and package that as a tax cut. But that would likely doom Scott's own package of $1 billion in business-friendly tax cuts next year.

Scott's method of paying for what he calls a "historic" boost in public school spending is one of the most contentious points in the 2016 budget debate. To review the math, Scott proposed an increase of $507 million in K-12 spending next year, and $427.3 million of it would come from local property taxpayers (including $60 million from the separate discretionary millage school districts can collect from taxpayers). The increase from state tax revenues would be $80 million.

Under Scott's plan, the total amount of local property taxes dedicated to schools -- what's known as RLE or required local effort -- would reach a record $7.9 billion.

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 3, 2016 8:51am]


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