North Florida Targeted For Millions In State Budget

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Tens of millions of dollars in Florida tax dollar funding are ticketed for the Tallahassee area.

The biggest project dollars are going to area college campuses.

Construction is underway for an addition to FAMU's pharmacy school.

Thanks to $10-million in state funding, it will move forward.

"Florida A&M has a world class pharmacy program, one of the top in the nation and so they needed the additional funding," said State Representative Alan Williams.

The pharmacy school money is part of more than $83-million in construction and other other projects for mostly FSU and FAMU's campuses.

Roughly $2.9-million will go towards water and sewer and specialty projects like the Tallahassee Museum.

And about $100-million in university base funding for FSU, FAMU and TCC, up about 4 percent from last year, is also included in the budget.

While state employees didn't get a raise this year, they also won't face changes to their retirement system.

"It was a victory for state workers, it was a victory for teachers, quite frankly, it was a victory for all of north Florida," said State Senator Bill Montford.

Both Montford and Williams served on the full appropriations committee and were part of budget negotiations.

"You'd rather be at the table then on the menu and so we were definitely at the table," said Williams.

The budget now moves to Governor Rick Scott who does have the power to remove individual pieces or line items.

"My opinion, everything we got in North Florida's important, so my advice to him is just leave us alone," said Montford. "If you to cut something, look south," he said.

Overall, Tallahassee area lawmakers say the process went smoothly.

Unsolicited in this election year, Montford and Williams, both Democrats, praised the leadership of Senate President Don Gaetz and Speaker Will Weatherford, both Republicans.

Montford said the budget process was non-partisan and fair to everyone in Florida.

Higher education institutions in Florida's capital city can expect more state funding than in recent years.

After some lean times, F-S-U, FAMU and T-C-C are getting a bigger slice of the pie.

Each one of those institutions is getting a roughly 4 percent boost in base funding compared to last year.

There are also several projects getting funding.

Construction is underway to add space to FAMU's pharmacy school.

Thanks to $10-million in new state funding, there will be new labs and potentially more federally funded research.

"Our pharmacy school does so much research," said FAMU's Tola Thompson. "There's about $25-million a year in research," he said.

Additionally FAMU pharmacy professors are getting $700,000 in state funding for raises to keep their salaries competitive.

Some other big ticket items include $2.5 million for science and technology or STEM enhancement, $1-million for distance learning to promote internet classes and $10-million for another building for the engineering school.

"I've seen a difference in the approach to higher education and I'm pleased with it," said State Represenative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda. "I don't think we're where we should be, but we're getting there," she said.

FSU big ticket items include $20-million for a new earth sciences building, $20-million for pre-eminence funding to help the university reach top 25 public school status and $2.5-million for STEM enhancement.

Overall, base funding for FSU is up nearly $10-million from last year to $251-million, up $3.5-million at FAMU to about $85-million and up close to $1-million at TCC to roughly $24.5-million.

"The ball is beginning to bounce back in our direction now," said Thompson. "We're pleased with it, we're very thankful to the legislature," he said.

Governor Rick Scott will have the final say in this process.

He can use a line item veto to take some items out of the budget if he chooses.

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