Florida Gov. Jeb Bush Tuesday unveiled a record $61.6 billion spending plan for next year. It contains millions in tax cuts, tuition increases and cuts in benefits to the needy. The governor says he is ready to defend his plans.
Florida is flush with cash; $4.4 billion more than last year. Jeb Bush wants to use part of it to cut the tax on stocks and bonds, eliminate a controversial drink tax and extend a sales tax holiday to nine days.
"Cutting taxes is a good thing if it spurs economic activity, which creates revenue for government at all levels," says Bush.
Tuition would go up under the governor’s plan, seven and a half percent for under grads, but the sky would be the limit on out of state students and graduate studies.
"We believe our state universities should become more flexible, more autonomous if you will, more market driven," he adds.
Bush also pushed but offered scant details of his plan to reform the fastest growing budget item: Medicaid or health care for the poor and needy. When pushed by reporters though, the governor allowed that he is cutting $396 million in health care for the medically needy program.
"There will be prescription drug benefits for the medically needy, but not the other services," says Bush.
The governor’s plan to cut taxes in roughly the same amount of money that it would take the medically needy program running is sure to provoke a fight. The governor says he’s ready.
"So right on, this is the right approach."
State lawmakers will have the final say, and if past years are any guide, college students and advocates for the needy who are getting hit the hardest in this budget will speak out loudly.
The governor also wants to stick county governments with the $90 million a year cost of locking up juveniles before they go to trial. Lawmakers tried to do the same thing last year, but were stopped by the courts.