Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

House passes $69.2 billion budget on party lines

TALLAHASSEE — Divided along party lines, the state House passed a $69.2 billion budget Thursday that raises college tuition by 8 percent and pays for a $1 billion increase in education by cutting health programs for the needy.

The vote was 79 to 38, with every Republican present voting yes and every Democrat voting no.

Democrats argued that the $1 billion increase in public schools is not an increase at all, because it doesn't quite make up for last year's $1.3 billion cut.

"We're still not even made whole from what the cut was last year," said Rep. Martin Kiar, D-Davie.

The House would cut payments to hospitals by 7 percent and to nursing homes by 2.5 percent, and eliminates Medicaid coverage for podiatric and chiropractic care for adults, affecting about 34,000 patients statewide.

Under the House plan, Bright Futures scholarships for college students would be cut by 9.3 percent. About 4,500 state jobs would be eliminated but many are vacant. Nearly a third of all job eliminations are in the prison system.

The House budget spares two state prisons from being closed: Hillsborough Correctional in Riverview and Jefferson Correctional in Monticello. But lawmakers concede that the Department of Corrections has the independent authority to close them.

"It's not that I'm totally opposed to closing the prison," said House budget chief Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring. "But closing it with no notice totally devastates the community." If the prison system shuts the prison over legislative opposition, she said, "I think it would be a bad decision."

The no-new-taxes election-year budget marks the fifth year in a row that lawmakers have cut spending to make up for a persistent shortfall in sales tax revenues.

Outnumbered Democrats criticized Republicans for refusing to consider new revenue sources, such as taxing Internet sales or collecting what they say are unpaid taxes by online travel companies. They said it was wrong to cut minority health initiatives and funding to historically black colleges.

Republicans congratulated themselves for not increasing the tax burden on Florida families.

"We are still in a recessive economy and we have put together the most responsible budget that we can," said Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami.

The Senate is proceeding more slowly with its budget than the House, but some stark differences have emerged. The Senate is opposed to increasing college and university tuition but has proposed much more significant cuts to mental health and substance abuse programs.

The Senate also has not decided whether to keep open some prisons slated to be closed.

The state prison in poverty-stricken Jefferson County is the area's largest employer, and residents have said that if it closes, the picturesque county just easy of Tallahassee will become a ghost town.

Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, the new chairman of the Senate budget panel on prisons, said that the cost of keeping Hillsborough and Jefferson open is $18 million, and that lawmakers must find cuts of that amount to keep both prisons open.

Bogdanoff said that in the final analysis, Gov. Rick Scott has the authority to decide which prisons to close.

"He can do it anyway," Bogdanoff said. "Once we go home, it's the governor's call."

Times/Herald staff writer Kathleen McGrory contributed to this report.

House passes $69.2 billion budget on party lines 02/09/12 [Last modified: Thursday, February 9, 2012 3:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bill Clinton coming to Miami Beach on Saturday for mayors' convention


    From our friends at the Miami Herald:

    Former President Bill Clinton gives the opening address to kick off a meeting of International Aid Groups at the InterAction Forum 2017 at the Washington Convention Center on June 20.
  2. Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault


    WASHINGTON — Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried "eyes only" instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Barack Obama shake hands at the COP21 UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, France, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. [Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]
  3. GOP's challenge: Finding votes for Senate health care bill (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has finally unwrapped his plan for dismantling President Barack Obama's health care law. Now comes his next challenge — persuading enough Republicans to back the measure and avert a defeat that could be shattering for President Donald Trump and the GOP.

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks to reporters at the Capitol after Republicans released their long-awaited bill to scuttle much of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 22, 2017. He is one of four GOP senators to say they are opposed it but are open to negotiations, which could put the measure in immediate jeopardy. [Associated Press]
  4. Trigaux: Halfway through 2017, a closer look at six drivers of the Tampa Bay economy


    We're nearly halfway through 2017 already, a perfect time to step back from the daily grind of business and ask: How's Tampa Bay's economy doing?

    Is there one theme or idea that captures the Tampa Bay brand? Not really but here's one possibility. The fun-loving annual Gasparilla "Invasion" of Tampa is captured in this photo of 
The Jose Gasparilla loaded with pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla on its way this past January to the Tampa Convention Center. In the future a vibrant downtown Tampa or St. Petersburg may be the better theme. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  5. Harmeling first woman to receive lifetime honor at Sneaker Soiree in Tampa

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — For the last quarter-century, she has combined passion and meticulousness to keep the Gasparilla Distance Classic humming and evolving. Indefatigable and detailed, Susan Harmeling braces for every race-weekend contingency.

    Susan Harmeling gives a speech after accepting an award  during the annual Sneaker Soiree, at TPepin's Hospitality Centre, Thursday, June 22, 2017.