Florida House Unveils First Round of Budget Allocations
Around the State
House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, released the first round of budget allocations to the various appropriations committees Monday, with education, health care and criminal justice receiving the lion's share of hand-outs.
“The Florida Legislature will be called to make difficult choices for the FY 2011-12 budget,” insisted Cannon in a memo sent to House members. “The Revenue Estimating Conference has determined the gap between anticipated revenues and needs to be within a range of $2.9 billion to $4.6 billion. On Friday, the REC revised their General Revenue estimate downward by $215.8 million.
“Over the last four fiscal years, the Legislature has reduced state expenditures, making it improbable that we will be able to yield large savings through modest actions and generalized efficiencies,” added Cannon. “This is especially true in the areas of health care and K-12 education, which comprise over 60 percent of the budget. Because of the Legislature’s inability to enact comprehensive Medicaid reform, we continue to experience uncontrolled escalations in the caseloads and costs of this federal entitlement program.”
As Cannon noted, a good deal of the allocations went to education. The PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, will have $8.2 billion in general revenue, as well as $1.7 billion from trust funds. The Higher Education Subcommittee, led by Rep. Marlene O’Toole, R-The Villages, will initially have $3.1 billion from general revenue and $822 million from trust funds.
“The House budget will prioritize education, and K-12 education will receive the greatest percentage of the general revenue allocation,” wrote Cannon. “When adjusted for the savings to the local school districts from Florida Retirement System (FRS) contribution rates, the K-12 proportional share of the general revenue funding for FY 2011-12 will be a reduction of two tenths of a percent (.2 percent) from FY 2010-11.
“The K-12 general revenue funding level will exceed the general revenue appropriation from FY 2009-10,” Cannon noted in the memo.
While the House speaker insisted that the budget would not increase taxes or fees, Cannon did leave the door open to higher tuition from state colleges and universities. “In the area of higher education, adjustments to tuition or fees are permitted but only when participation in the underlying program is voluntary, and the fees reflect a sharing of the actual cost of the program,” wrote Cannon.
Cannon also focused on health-care appropriations in the memo.
“The House budget will not adopt strategies to control Medicaid spending that result in cost shifts toward the other aspects of our state-funded health care infrastructure, including driving uncompensated care into our public hospitals and emergency departments,” wrote Cannon.
Chaired by Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will oversee $7.1 billion from general revenue, $393 million from the tobacco settlement trust fund and more than $90 billion from other sources.
Cannon stressed that public safety concerns took precedence over cutting criminal justice costs.
“The House budget will not revise adult sentencing policies, change inmate release schedules, or take any action that jeopardizes the long-term safety of the public to save money in the current fiscal year,” wrote Cannon.
The Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, will oversee $3.3 billion from general revenue and $68 million from other sources.
The other House subcommittees will craft their parts of the budget with considerably less, with none of the subcommittees receiving more than $270 million from general revenue.
“The House budget will prioritize the delivery of services to people (education, health care, and public safety) over the purchase of things (transportation, general government, and the environment),” wrote Cannon.
The Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee, led by Rep. Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee, will tackle almost $270 million from general revenue as well as almost $529 million from trust fund sweeps. Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, will lead the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee in managing $187 million from general revenue and $64 million from trust fund sweeps. The Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, will oversee $255 million from general revenue and $57 million from trust fund sweeps.
Two committees also received initial allocations from Cannon on Monday. The full Appropriations Committee, chaired by Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, received almost $175 million from general revenue and almost $320 million from the Education Enhancement Trust Fund. The Finance and Tax Committee, led by Rep. Stephen Precourt, R-Orlando, will manage $150 million from general revenue.
“The Florida House will not rely on strategies to push the hard budget decisions onto others,” insisted Cannon. “Unlike other states, we will not carry unresolved deficits. We will not offer phantom cuts based on unproven efficiencies. We will not risk our favorable bond ratings by producing a budget with inadequate reserves. Most importantly, we will not take money out of the struggling Florida economy by increasing taxes or fees.”
Cannon also offered guidance for his subcommittee chairs on Monday.
“The subcommittee chairs are encouraged to consider new cost-saving strategies, but they should not budget savings from programmatic changes unless there is certainty those savings can be achieved,” noted Cannon.
“The construction and passage of a budget is the sole duty imposed on our Legislature by our state’s Constitution,” wrote Cannon in conclusion. “I strongly encourage members to invest the time to actively participate in the budget-writing process at the subcommittee level.”
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