Florida Budget Benefits Education

The budget adds more than $1 billion in education spending and preserves many programs for the state's most vulnerable citizens.

It's been sort of a strange final day up here at the Capitol. House Speaker Johnnie Byrd and Senate President Jim King haven't been talking to each other and that leaves it sort of up in the air as to when the state budget will pass Friday night.

What we do know is it is not as painful a budget as we've seen in recent years. Education is one of the big winners in this year's state budget. More than a billion new dollars will go into kindergarten through 12th grade statewide.

As he watched the Legislature in action at the Capitol, Education Commissioner Jim Horne gave the budget an A plus.

“Our community colleges, it's probably the best ever budget, our universities, it was an awesome year. I mean we get to catch up on enrollment, there's a tremendous amount of funding for some of their other projects,” says Horne.

But K-12 education gets just $250 more per student, which means no pay raises for teachers in many counties. Older folks also don't fare well.

Lyn Bodiford with AARP says the Legislature broke a promise to fund just a few minutes more a day of care for nursing home residents.

"There will be people harmed unnecessarily through no one's fault, just the fact that there aren't enough staff in these facilities to insure that people aren't harmed," says Lyn.

But lawmakers also found plenty of cash this year for projects some people call turkeys $25 million for a chiropractic school at Florida State University, $900,000 for a training center for Future Farmers of America, and $1.5 million for domestic security in a tiny Florida town where the Senate president happens to have a vacation home.

Democrats say the republican-led Legislature is out of touch with regular citizens.

Rep. Doug Wiles, Florida House Minority Leader, says, “To me it seems like in some areas we've lost our focus, but republicans say keeping state spending in check is the main reason Florida's in better shape than so many other states.”

Lawmakers plan to vote on the state budget sometime after 7 p.m. tonight. The session is scheduled to end at midnight. Both tax breaks did pass the House and the Senate has agreed to include them in the budget.

Among the high profile issues that have not passed and aren't likely to are pre-k and a Constitutional amendment requiring parental notification for abortions.