10 things to know about Florida's new $89 billion budget
Public school spending increases by $485 million
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Legislature on Sunday approved a $89 billion budget.
Here are a few key items in the budget you should know about:
EDUCATION: The new budget increases day-to-day public school spending by nearly $485 million, which translates into a 2.35 percent increase. Annual per-pupil spending would be $7,408, about $101 more than this year. But most of the increase is tied to a sweeping gun and school safety bill already signed by Gov. Rick Scott. That bill included a $97 million increase in funding for school safety programs that can be used to hire more school resource officers. It also includes $69 million for a new mental health program that will be instituted in the state's public schools. School superintendents from some of the state's largest school districts have warned the budget is not enough to take care of rising costs and will likely result in cuts in other programs.
PROPERTY TAXES: Legislators rejected a proposal by Gov. Scott to use a rise in local property values to provide additional money for schools. Instead, the budget includes enough state money to have a small decrease in local property taxes.
PAY RAISES: There are no across-the-board pay raises for state workers included in the state budget. The budget includes a 7 or 10 percent pay raise for state law-enforcement officers as well as raises for assistant state attorneys, assistant public defender and juvenile probation officers. State firefighters will be given a $2,500 increase. Florida's seven Supreme Court justices are also getting a nearly 24 percent raise that will increase their salaries to $220,600.
TUITION: Tuition rates for college and university students will stay the same in the new budget. Legislators have also agreed to increase several financial aid programs. Those eligible for the top level of the state's Bright Futures scholarship will receive an award equal to 100 percent of tuition and fees. Those eligible for the Florida Medallion Scholars will receive an award equal to 75 percent of tuition and fees. Top level Bright Futures scholarship recipients will also be able to receive money for summer classes.
CITRUS CANKER: Legislators included $52 million in the budget to pay homeowners who live in Broward and Palm Beach counties and whose healthy citrus trees were torn down in a failed attempt to eradicate citrus canker. Gov. Scott vetoed a similar item last year.
ENVIRONMENT: More than $100 million was included in the budget for Florida Forever, the state's program to purchase environmentally-sensitive land. This is the largest amount set aside for the program since the Great Recession. The budget also includes $50 million for springs restoration and more than $60 million for beach restoration programs, including more than $11 million for beaches damaged by Hurricane Irma.
HEALTH CARE: The new budget includes increased spending on Medicaid and the state's subsidized children's health insurance program as well as increased payments to nursing homes. The budget also increases a personal needs allowance provided to nursing home residents.
CYBERSECURITY: Legislators agreed to set aside $1.9 million in grants that would go to county election officials that would be used to monitor security threats and suspicious activity.
TAXES: State legislators agreed on a tax cut package. It includes a three-day holiday in August where sales taxes on most clothes and school supplies will not be charged. The tax cut legislation also calls for a week-long period in June where taxes will not be charged on hurricane supplies, including batteries, flashlights and generators. Legislators did not go along with a Scott proposal to reduce fees charged to get or renew a driver's license.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Legislators kept funding levels the same for economic development programs that are priorities for Scott. Scott wanted $100 million for Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing agency but lawmakers instead kept it at $76 million. Legislators also set aside $85 million for a fund that can be used for workforce training or construction projects that aid economic development.
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