Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida budget negotiators report agreement on some spending

TALLAHASSEE — State lawmakers made significant headway on the budget Saturday, reaching consensus on economic incentives and transportation, prison and law enforcement spending.

But they had yet to find a compromise in the two most controversial parts of the spending plan: education and health and human services.

"We just opted not to go through that first," said House budget Chairwoman Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring. "We'll get to it, hopefully, tomorrow."

The chambers must align their budgets by Tuesday in order to finish the session on time. The Senate had proposed a $71 billion budget. The House version was $69 billion.

On Saturday, lawmakers agreed on an $86 million package of economic incentives aimed at bringing companies to Florida.

After initially disagreeing on how much power Gov. Rick Scott should have over incentive money, the Senate and House agreed to give the governor $61 million to use as he sees fit. An additional $25 million in incentives — grants, tax cuts and the like — would have to be approved by legislators.

Scott originally asked for about $230 million in incentives.

The House and Senate also agreed to find savings in the Department of Corrections, opting to close prisons, eliminate vacant positions and reduce contracts with private contractors.

Pleas from workers pushed lawmakers to save Jefferson Correctional Institute from closure, but legislators opted to push ahead with a plan to close the Hillsborough Correctional Institution.

Of the unresolved issues, preK-12 education spending will likely be the easiest to sort out. Both chambers agreed to add more than $1 billion to schools.

Higher education will be the bigger problem. How to spread $300 million in proposed budget cuts among the state's 11 universities is an issue yet to be addressed.

In the House's original spending plan, a formula was used to disperse the cuts evenly among all the universities. But Senate budget Chairman JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, frustrated with University of South Florida officials in his effort to turn USF's Lakeland campus into an independent university, came up with a new method that aimed the largest cuts at USF. Alexander said the cuts were commensurate in size to a school's reserves, but USF officials were quick to point out they didn't have the largest reserves.

Because of the USF situation, which also remains unresolved, many Tampa Bay lawmakers said the distribution of the cuts remains the most vexing issue left outstanding.

"That's what I'm concerned about right now," said Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. "We need the cuts to be proportionate."

Reaching a deal on Medicaid could be equally challenging. The Senate and House have proposed different rate cuts.

In addition, the Senate has proposed spending millions more on adult mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment.

Times/Herald staff writer Tia Mitchell contributed to this report.

Florida budget negotiators report agreement on some spending 03/03/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 3, 2012 11:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Deputies find unidentified decomposing body in Dunedin canal

    Public Safety

    DUNEDIN — Pinellas County sheriff's deputies found an unidentified male body floating in a Dunedin canal Monday afternoon, the Sheriff's Office said.

  2. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.
  3. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108
  4. Fennelly: About time Dave Andreychuk makes Hockey Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    It's Andy's time.

    And it's about time.

    Former Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk has been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. He had been eligible since 2009, a ridiculously long wait for someone who scored 640 goals, including a record 274 on the power play.

    LEFT: Dave Andreychuk talks at the podium as he is honored with a statue in front of the now-Amalie Arena.
  5. British government says 75 out of 75 buildings failed fire safety tests


    LONDON — Britain on Monday confronted a rapidly growing fire safety crisis after tests of the exterior cladding on dozens of public housing towers revealed a 100 percent failure rate, raising fears that this month's deadly inferno in London could be repeated elsewhere.

    Workers remove cladding from Whitebeam Court in Pendleton, Manchester, on Monday. A type of cladding restricted in other countries has been blamed for the fatal Grenfell Tower blaze.