Florida Budget Deal

Florida lawmakers have a deal on the state budget. Next year, Florida will spend $52.3 billion, or about $3,200 for every one who lives here. Schools see a modest increase, but there is disagreement over exactly how far that money will go.

Lawmakers go back to the Capital for a final vote on the budget Tuesday, but they have no chance to change anything they don't like. There will be no sales tax holiday on Florida for the second year in a row.

Schools will see a four and a half percent increase. Few teachers are likely to see raises, but there is money for class size reduction and training. Senate Appropriations Chairman, Ken Pruitt, calls it barely adequate for some districts and not enough for others.

"For some districts who perhaps maybe able to get by, particularly your no growth or slow growth counties. But the high growth counties, it's going to be very tough for them," says Sen. Pruitt.

Bright Futures and prepaid college programs remain intact, but tuition is going up by eight point five percent. Gov. Bush got all the money he wanted to reward schools showing improvement, but it came at the expense of other programs. The hugely successful anti teen smoking program was gutted; leaving anti smoking advocates fearing the worse.

"The tri-agencies, heart, lung and cancer all believe that we will see a rise youth smoking, a rise in middle school and high school smoking," says Patrick Kennedy of the Florida Heart Association.

Seniors will get a break on prescription drugs to the tune of $6.5 million. The medically needy program will stay in place, but participants will pay have to pay an additional two percent of their prescriptions.

In the end, the House Speaker gave up his much sought after Alzheimer's center. House Appropriations Chairman, Bruce Kyle, says the House had other victories

"We're living within our means, no taxes, no new taxes," says Kyle.

And while there are no new taxes, a least 100 million in new fees will kick in, including higher drivers license charges, a bigger fee for criminal history checks and surcharges on subsidized health care for kids.

Lawmakers go back to the capital for a final vote on the budget Tuesday, but they have no chance to change anything they don't like.


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