Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

House and Senate budget compromise comes together in a rush

Florida House budget chairman David Rivera, R-Miami, talks with Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, during a budget meeting Monday night in Tallahassee. 


Florida House budget chairman David Rivera, R-Miami, talks with Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, during a budget meeting Monday night in Tallahassee. 

TALLAHASSEE — State lawmakers reached a deal on a new budget shortly before midnight Monday after bargaining over everything from workers' pay and benefits to health care appropriations.

As lawmakers finalized the series of last-minute decisions a torrent of local projects suddenly surfaced — from $8.5 million for Florida A&M's Crestview Education Center to $1 million for the Discovery Center museum in Fort Lauderdale to $150,000 for emergency generators for the town of Golden Beach in Miami-Dade.

Library lovers scored a victory when lawmakers added $7 million to library funding for a total of $21 million, sufficient to qualify for $8 million in federal matching money. Sen. J.D. Alexander saluted Paul Clark, a devoted library employee who sacrificed personal vacation time and spent days in the Capitol, peacefully hoisting a protest sign.

Public defenders will receive an additional $2 million to handle workload increases — a boost credited to Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa. Florida International University got $32.5 million for a health clinic to be built in conjunction with the county.

Another $40 million in anticipated Medicaid surplus money was allocated to Everglades restoration, and $400,000 was funded for a civics mentor teaching program at the University of Central Florida's Lou Frey Institute of Politics and Government in Orlando. Miami's Jackson Memorial will get an extra $25 million, but the money is contingent on stronger county oversight of the hospital's financial condition.

For the fifth year in a row, rank-and-file state employees won't get an across-the-board pay raise. But in a reflection of the state's weak financial condition, the workers union declared victory because its members avoided a 3 percent pay cut that had been seriously considered.

State workers in HMOs will pay higher co-payments for doctor visits, from $15 to $20 to see a primary care doctor and from $25 to $40 for a specialist.

Hospitals and nursing homes were the biggest losers in the health budget. They each sustained a 7 percent rate cut. Miami Children's Hospital, St. Petersburg's All Children's Hospital and rural hospitals had their rates cut by 3.5 percent. Mental health and substance abuse programs also received numerous cuts that lawmakers said made them uneasy.

For the first time, all 160 state legislators and about 27,000 highly paid state employees will pay a share of their health insurance premiums, but it won't be much: $100 a year for single coverage and $360 a year for family coverage. Legislators' salaries will remain unchanged for next year at about $31,000.

Other decisions lawmakers reached Monday include:

• Requiring voter approval for school districts to impose an optional property tax of 25 cents for $1,000 of assessed property value.

• Allowing up to 20,000 chronically ill patients statewide to order drugs by mail.

• Barring taxpayer funds from paying for human embryonic stem cell research by state universities.

• Prohibiting state-sanctioned travel to "terrorist states" such as Cuba.

The $69 billion-plus budget will reach legislators' desks today in time for the constitutionally mandated three-day cooling off period before a vote on Friday, the last day of the 60-day session.

The budget talks unfolded in an atmosphere of heightened transparency, giving a seldom-seen-glimpse into the horse trading that occurs in the final days.

Some legislators were struck by the absence of Gov. Charlie Crist and his key budget staff members at the crucial conference committee meetings.

"The governor's got a different style," Sen. John Thrasher said, "but the budget's pretty important stuff. It's the one thing everybody ought to be paying attention to."

House and Senate budget compromise comes together in a rush 04/26/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 12:27am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Before the Rays eventually won Sunday's 6½-hour, 15-inning marathon against the Twins 8-6, they did plenty to lose it. And we need to get that out of the way first.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.
  2. Tom Jones' Two Cents: ABC's Indy 500 coverage is stellar again

    TV and Radio

    Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Takuma Sato left, celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves is a little late passing him. ABC’s coverage of the race is stellar throughout, with plenty of extras but no fake drama.
  3. Takuma Sato surprise winner of wreck-filled Indy 500

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Takuma Sato, a journeyman driver, became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday when he held off three-time champion Helio Castroneves in a 230-mph wheel-rubbing duel to the finish.

    Scott Dixon’s car goes over the top of Jay Howard, soaring so high that Helio Castroneves drove under it while it was airborne. Stunningly, there were no serious injuries.
  4. South Korea military: North Korea fires unidentified projectile


    SEOUL — North Korea launched a ballistic missile early today that flew 280 miles and landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone, the South Korean military and the Japanese government said.

    S. Korean President Moon Jae-in is assessing the launch.
  5. Rays blow lead, rally, blow lead, rally again to beat Twins in 15 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays sure made it interesting Sunday, taking an early lead, watching their beleaguered bullpen blow it, rallying to tie in the ninth, battling the Twins to take a lead in the 14th then giving it up again.

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 28: Evan Longoria #3 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates scoring a run against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on May 28, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) 700010990