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Budget holds line on spending, official says

TALLAHASSEE - The election-year budget Gov. Bob Martinez releases today won't contain deep cuts in state programs despite dire predictions from legislators that Florida faces a billion-dollar cash shortfall, the governor's budget director said Wednesday. But the budget recommendation to the Legislature for fiscal year 1990-91, which begins July 1, also will keep new state spending to a minimum, said budget chief Patricia Woodworth.

"I don't think you're going to see wild spending with this governor," Woodworth said. "I think you'll see we meet the basic needs of the state."

Cigarette taxes would rise by 12 cents per pack under the proposal by Martinez - who opposed increasing the tax last year - and a tax on hospital net income would rise by 1 percent. Both would offset a shortfall in funds for poor people's medical care estimated at up to $217-million.

The budget is based on projected growth in general revenue of 7.5 percent compared with the current fiscal year, Ms. Woodworth said. The overall budget this year is about $23-billion.

Martinez has provided glimpses over the past few weeks of items he chose to highlight in his budget proposal. He proposed spending $1.1-billion for the Department of Corrections, a 22 percent increase over last year.

The spending plan includes a 3 percent pay raise for most state workers beginning Jan. 1, 1991, and $120-million for a variety of anti-drug abuse and enforcement programs.

The Republican governor's budget is certain to undergo intense scrutiny in the spring legislative session by Democrats looking for ammunition in their campaign to unseat him.

House Speaker Tom Gustafson, D-Fort Lauderdale, has already said existing revenues won't keep up with growing needs in education, social services, prison space and other sections of state government.

Democrats have produced estimates showing that state revenue will lag up to $1.2-billion behind in the next fiscal year even if programs are continued at current levels and a 4.3 percent pay hike for state employees is passed.

Tax receipts have consistently come in below estimates this year, resulting in a $280-million shortfall.

But Ms. Woodworth said the governor's budget will finance state government without a major tax increase and without cutting existing programs.

"Given the scene that has been set, I think people will be pleasantly amazed at what we've got," she said. "We're funding everything that's on their (legislators') list."