House budget builders on Friday released their $69.2 billion spending blueprint that includes more than $1 billion in additional funding for K-12 education and more than $2.5 billion in reserves.
The proposal will become grist for talks both in the House and with negotiators across the hall in the Senate as lawmakers enter the fourth week of the session.
The Senate spending plan, however, may not be finalized for a couple weeks as budget leaders review spending allocations — particularly in the health and human services sectors — for potential cuts as they attempt to fill a budget gap that could reach $2 billion.
“As Florida’s economy begins to stabilize, it is incumbent upon state government to continue controlling costs without increasing the tax burden placed on Floridians,” Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, said in a statement. “Passing a balanced budget on time and without raising taxes will send a positive message to Florida’s businesses community and help to instill the confidence in our economy that will lead to further increases in private sector job creation.”
The House plan includes general revenue funds totaling $24.3 billion, state trust funds totaling $20.4 billion and federal funds totaling $24.5 billion. The budget increases PreK-12 education funding by over $1 billion and includes more than $2.46 billion in reserves.
In education, the proposed budget calls for Pre-K-12 funding of $12.7 billion, a $1.1 billion, or 9.5 percent increase from the current fiscal year. The budget translates into a per student funding increase of 2.27 percent to $6,366 per student.
Higher education fares worse. The House proposal calls for cutting the $5.9 billion higher education budget by $246.1 million, a drop of 6 percent.
The House health and human services budget, released earlier in the week, would cut hospital Medicaid rates by $291 million next year and trim a series of benefits for low-income Floridians.
But the $29.8 billion proposal also would take steps such as increasing funding for child-protection investigators, stabilizing the finances of the deficit-plagued Agency for Persons with Disabilities and shielding from cuts the Medically Needy program for people with debilitating illnesses.
A key issue in the negotiations likely will be hospital Medicaid rates, which were cut by $510 million to help balance the current fiscal year’s budget. The House proposal rejects a plan by Gov. Rick Scott to overhaul — and more deeply slash — hospital funding, but it still calls for a 7 percent rate reduction.
The Senate has yet to release its spending proposal, but Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, chairman of the health and human services budget subcommittee, has said he doesn’t want to cut hospital rates as he tries to trim hundreds of millions in HHS funding.
“I have heard concerns expressed over hospital rate reductions in the House budget and look forward to seeing how the Senate will reduce $850 million in health care without adversely affecting the delivery of hospital services,” House budget chairwoman Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, said earlier this week..
Among a handful of other highlights, the House also proposed to boost funding for economic development initiatives. The proposal calls for $205.2 million, a 4.2 percent increase over last year.
For the courts, there is a $584.6 million, or 12.25 percent, reduction in total spending compared to 2011-12.
–Michael Peltier, News Service of Florida