Thursday, 01 April 2010 15:10

Update from Tallahasse: Legislative Session 2010 Week Five - the State Budget

Written by  Greg Giordano
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Florida State SealBudget, budget, budget.  That was the one and only theme that permeated the Capitol as the two chambers met to debate their respective versions of the Fiscal Year 2010-11 state budget.  The budget as it currently stands is a lean $68.6 billion dollar plan to run the state of Florida for the next year.  It may change if Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage dollars become available to the state.

Senate Bill 2700 was the final product of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, chaired by Senator J.D. Alexander of Lake Wales.  The overall budget was pieced together by the efforts of the appropriations committees that oversee specific parts of state government.  The prime goal was to maintain services at the current level or minimize the impact of cuts on services that directly impact Floridians.
 
The Health & Human Services budget, which was put together by Senator Durrell Peaden of Crestview, totals $27.2 billion dollars, which is a $4.5 billion dollar increase over last year.  The budget maintains current funding levels for Medicaid Services, Medicaid Eligibility and the KidCare Program.  It also maintains Department of Children and Families funding for the cash assistance program, community care for disabled adults and community-based care for children.
 
The Transportation and Economic Development budget was crafted by Senator Mike Fasano of New Port Richey.  $6.9 billion will be spent by the Florida Department of Transportation to maintain and build roads in the state.  $200 million dollars is appropriated to the Florida Highway Patrol to ensure that Florida’s roads are safe.  Additionally, the budget from this area maintains funding for the National Guard at its current level.
 
The Criminal and Civil Justice budget was built by Senator Victor Crist of Tampa.  The $5.2 billion dollar budget funds the state’s law enforcement and court system.  The budget maintains current levels for the State Court System, State Attorneys, Public Defenders and the Guardian Ad Litem program.  The Florida Parole Commission will not see a budget reduction this year either.
 
Senator Steve Wise of Jacksonville was in charge of the Education PreK-12 budget.  The budget totals $22.5 billion for the next school year.  The overall per student funding increased to $6,904.88 (0.57% over last year).  The Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program will receive $370 million dollars this year, an increase of $2.3 million over the previous year.  The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind and autism centers will see no cuts in funding.  The federal school lunch program was unaffected by budget cuts as well.
 
The Higher Education budget was under the purview of Senator Evelyn Lynn of Daytona Beach.  The overall budget allocation is $7.1 billion dollars.  The Florida College System will enjoy an 8%  increase over the previous year. The Bright Futures Program will be funded at $450.3 million dollars, which is $31.4 million more than the 2009-2010 school year.  Private Colleges and Universities will be receiving a funding increase as well.
 
The General Government budget, which was crafted by Senator Carey Baker of Eustis, funds such agencies as the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Revenue the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services and the Department of Financial Services.  Overall, the budget appropriates $3.5 billion to fund the various state agencies in this area.
 
SB 2700 passed the Senate with a 37-0 vote.  It will go the House which will host the budget conference.  The  conference is currently scheduled to begin April 12, which is week 7 of the legislative session.

Greg Giordano is the Chief Legislative Assistant to State Senator Mike Fasano. To read last week's update, go here.

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