Florida's Budget Battle

Arts and culture took a hit in the house version of the state budget today as lawmakers grapple with how to stretch limited dollars to cover the needs of Florida’s citizens. It's becoming an increasingly ugly battle, with the house refusing to raise any new money and the Senate saying needs can't be met without more money.

Although the house does not want to raise taxes, it is looking at raising costs to local governments. One bill state representatives approved would start charging local police agencies for crime lab work, which would pass a $13 million tab onto local governments.

Former golden girls actress Rue McClannahan came to the capitol this spring to try to save funding for Florida's beloved Coconut Grove Playhouse.

But now a bitterly divided house panel has voted to scrap the fund, and redirect other arts funding to pay for things like tax cuts.

Former Florida Arts Council Dir. Chris Doolin says lawmakers have their priorities mixed up

“We're dealing with a situation that they're having a nine-day sales tax holiday that's a $40 million hit on general revenue and at the same time you're cutting arts and history for a total of about $40 million,” Doolin says.

Right now the House and Senate budgets are nearly a billion dollars apart.

But the biggest argument right now is where the money will come from to pay for any of it. The House is so far refusing to consider any new fees

Rep. Ralph Arza says the House's tough no new taxes stance is part of the reason Florida is in much better financial shape than other states.

“I think we've seen that it's very important that we hold the line. That we try to live within our means,” explains Rep. Arza.

But Senate President Jim King says frustrated citizens are starting to learn what's being left out of the house budget, and he's beginning to see the results.

“The House delegation members from the various delegations around the state, they're beginning to contact their senators and saying, what can we do to help,” King says.

King hopes citizens will let their lawmakers know what they really want, no new taxes or a budget that chips away at many things Floridians have come to hold dear.

Although the House does not want to raise taxes, it is looking at raising costs to local governments. One bill state representatives approved would start charging local police agencies for crime lab work, which would pass a $13 million tab onto local governments.


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