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The Grinch Finds His Heart


Scott reveals ‘Florida Families First’ Budget By Rick Outzen

Gov. Rick Scott unveiled on Jan. 31 his budget proposal for fiscal year 2013-2014, which he titled the “Florida Families First Budget.” The $74.2 billion budget is the largest in state history and $8.4 billion more than the first one he proposed in 2011.

It expands healthcare and services to the disabled, gives raises to teachers and state employees, cuts taxes on manufacturers and restores some of the governor’s previous cuts to funds for higher education. The environment and transportation also have funding increases.

“My message is simple,” said Gov. Scott when he announced his budget. “Everything we do in government must be focused on helping families pursue their dreams by getting a great job and accessing a quality education.”

It’s as if the Grinch’s heart grew overnight.

Education

The “Florida Families First” budget provides a record $10.7 billion in state funding for the state’s K-12 public schools and includes $2,500 pay raises for classroom teachers. The total funding for K-12 public education is $18.7 billion, a 7.3-percent increase over the current fiscal year. The funding per student is $6,799, an increase of $412, or 6.45 percent.

The budget provides $1.1 billion in funding for state colleges and $3.85 billion for Florida’s universities. Pensacola State College and other state colleges will benefit from an increase of $74.4 million over current year funding for the state college system, which includes $13 million for competitive workforce programs. The University of West Florida and other state universities will see an overall increase of $393.3 million.

The budget includes performance funding for workforce development with metrics for fund distribution. In addition to the state colleges’ $14 million for workforce development, Gov. Scott has earmarked $167 million for Florida’s public universities and $18.7 for district workforce programs, which includes Workforce Escarosa.

The governor wants the performance measures to be:
- Percentage of graduates employed or continuing education;
- Average wage of employed graduates; and
- Average cost to produce a graduate.

Seniors

The governor recommends an additional $24.2 million to serve individuals who are at-risk for nursing home placement and are currently on the waitlist for home and community-based services. The Department’s Nursing Home Diversion Program, which currently serves 22,000 seniors, will receive an additional $5.6 million to reduce its waitlist and better serve seniors who are in the most critical need of care.

Governor Scott is also proposing a 17.4-percent increase, $18.6 million, to serve almost 1,700 more individuals through the Aged and Disabled Adult Waiver (ADA), cutting the waitlist for that program by more than half.

Environment

The total proposed budget for the environmental policy area is $3 billion, which is approximately $225 million less than last year’s budget, primarily due to a reduction of debt service associated with the retirement of land acquisition bonds.

Everglades Restoration is slated to receive $60 million, a $30-million increase over last year’s appropriation. Florida Forever gets an increase of more than $66 million. The funds will be used primarily to acquire lands needed for springs protection, military buffering or water resource protection. The budget includes $25 million for beach restoration projects.

Economic Opportunity
The economic development budget is $1.2 billion. The Division of Strategic Business Development gets a $200-million increase to continue its activities to attract businesses to Florida. Workforce development has a $55-million increase.

Gov. Scott has proposed $250,000 to complete and implement an economic development incentives database and portal to view incentives for various economic development projects and track the return on the state’s investment on those projects.

The budget also raises the level of income exempt from the Florida corporate income tax from $50,000 to $75,000. He estimates that will free about 2,000 current corporate taxpayers from having to pay the tax. The revenue loss to the state is $19.7 million annually.

The governor wants to exempt manufacturers from paying sales taxes on their equipment purchases. Florida is one of the few states that taxes those purchases, which puts the state at a competitive disadvantage. He plans to cover the recurring $115.3 million in lost revenue through cost savings across state government.

Transportation
Highway construction is a big winner in the recommended budget. The Department of Transportation budget is $9.1 billion, of which $8.3 billion supports the Transportation Work Program. This is $917 million more that is being spent in the current budget.

The governor believes this will retain or create an estimated 500,000 jobs, a third of which will be in highway construction. State highway construction gets $3.6 billion, bridge construction has a $287 million budget, and county transportation programs get $144 million.

On the day of Scott’s budget release, Florida Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) held a series of press conferences along Northwest Florida to announce the state was accelerating nearly $1 billion in transportation funding.

The 10 projects, according to Gaetz, constitute the largest single investment in this area’s transportation infrastructure in state history and includes improvements for the region’s ports, roadways, bridges and rail transportation.

The largest single project is the replacement of the Pensacola Bay Bridge that connects Gulf Breeze and Pensacola. The bridge will not be a toll and will be built entirely by state transportation funds. Construction is scheduled to begin in two years following acquisition of right of way and environmental permits.

Continue Progress

For Gov. Scott, his “Florida Families First” budget reflects his progress in reducing the size and cost of state government and in creating an environment that encourages job creation.

“Over the last two years, we made the tough choices to get our economy back on track,” Scott said. “Through cost-savings efforts, we were able to cut taxes and eliminate regulations on businesses to help them succeed and create more jobs.”

He believes this budget will build on his accomplishments.

“As long as even one Florida family is still struggling to find work or access a great education, our work is not done. This year, we will build on our successes through targeted investments that put Florida Families First.”

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Florida Families First
Key Points

Public schools

$2,500 pay raise for classroom teachers

$14 million increase for Teacher Classroom Supply Assistance Program

$74.9 million for school safety

$100 million for digital learning

$100 million for new charter school capital outlay needs

Higher education

No increase in college or university tuition

$181 million for performance-based funding for colleges and universities

Taxes

Sales tax exemption for manufacturers’ equipment purchases

Raise the threshold for corporate tax exemption from $50,000 to $75,000

Jobs

Elimination of 3,647 state jobs (3.1 percent)

Performance-based bonuses for state workers

$8.3 billion for Transportation Work Program that retains or creates 500,000 jobs in road construction industry

Environment

$60 million for Everglades restoration

$75 million for Florida Forever land preservation program

$6.5 million for restoring springs, though water agencies had requested $122 million

 

What happens next on state budget?

Following presentation of the Governor’s recommended budget, the Legislature begins
its review during committee meetings prior to the start of the legislative session.

During the legislative session, the Florida House and Senate each pass a budget reflecting the priorities of its members. Differences between the Senate and House budgets are resolved in a joint conference committee.

The conference committee report becomes the General Appropriations Act and is presented to the Governor. The Governor has line-item veto authority to delete any specific budget item.

Once the Governor has completed his line item vetoes, he signs the General Appropriations Act into law, establishing the statewide budget for the next fiscal year.

A two-thirds majority vote of both the Senate and House is required to overturn any of the Governor’s line item vetoes.