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House and Senate budgets close as chambers prep spending plans

Budget bills released by the House and Senate on Friday provide more money for education and health and human services, at least $500 million in tax and fee cuts, no raises for most state workers and full funding for the state transportation work plan.

The spending plans include much of Gov. Rick Scott’s budget recommendations, but also tinker in key areas. The House’s $75.3 billion plan is larger than the Senate’s $74.9 billion version, and about $1.1 billion more than Scott’s $74.2 billion suggestion.

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Both chambers put more into education than Scott’s $18.8 billion total. The House budget spends $22.6 billion overall, with $13.1 billion going to preK-12, $5.4 billion for universities and community colleges and the rest to early learning and other education programs. The Senate has $22.3 billion in education spending, including $13 billion for preK-12 and $5.4 billion for higher education.

Health and human services spending clocks in at about $30.6 billion in both chambers, about $300 million more than Scott’s recommendation. The Senate version includes $20 million to reduce waiting lists for elderly patients looking to get into community based care programs. The House has a similar amount to cut down the waiting list for Agency for Persons with Disability services for the most critically needy.

The House has $3.4 billion for spending on the environment, agriculture and natural resources, with the Senate slightly more. The House’s $50 million for springs protection is short of the $55 million suggested by Scott and pales in comparison to the $378 million sought by a group of senators.

Scott’s $8.8 billion request for transportation infrastructure projects is well met by both chambers, with the House version about $100 million more and the Senate $100 million less. The Senate gives Scott $79 million of the $95 million in economic incentives he wants to lure business to grow or relocate in Florida, but doesn’t sweep any of the $226 million affordable housing trust fund money. The House is starting out with $60 million in incentives and raids the trust fund for $137 million.

For most state workers, who this year saw their first pay raise this year after seven years of stagnant salaries, pay will remain flat. The Senate plan includes $9.7 million for raises for court system employees, but neither chamber includes raises for other state workers or bonuses based on performance, as Scott suggested.

The House budget funds 144,166 full time positions while the Senate has 114,216 positions, about 269 workers less than Scott’s recommendation.

 

Reporter Gray Rohrer can be reached at [email protected]

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