Rick Scott Calls to Grow Budget 5.7 Percent

By: Jim Turner | Posted: January 31, 2013 3:15 PM
Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott on Jan 31, 2013.

Gov. Rick Scott wants legislators to boost funding for colleges, hand out bonuses to state workers, give pay hikes to teachers, while cutting taxes for manufacturers and small business as part of his proposed $74.1 billion spending plan and agenda for the next fiscal year.

The proposal also includes $116.1 million to cover the mandatory portions of the federal health care law, primarily the people currently eligible to receive Medicaid but not enrolled.

The agenda does not outline the state’s response to the Affordable Care Act, with the first of two requested waivers from the federal government due Feb. 7, Scott said.

“I can’t make a decision until I get those answers,” Scott said.

Questions about the budget.

Full budget.

Amid a large collection of teachers, university presidents and other state government and business leaders at the Capitol, Scott unleashed his “Florida Families First” budget that is 5.7 percent larger than the current fiscal year’s budget.

“This budget will continue our progress on reducing business taxes, investing in K-12 education, making higher education more affordable and creating an environment that encourages job creation,” Scott said.

Scott, who campaigned to reduce the state government and budget, defended the larger budget by saying the budget proposal is mostly about investing as the past cuts have helped the state’s economy improve.

“Over the last two years, we made the tough choices to get our economy back on track,” Scott said. Through cost-savings efforts, we were able to cut taxes and eliminate regulations on businesses to help them succeed and create more jobs. As a result of our work over the last two years, we have created an environment where Florida’s private sector was able to create thousands of jobs. We are also now among the best states in the country for our drop in our unemployment rate. Florida’s economy is back on track.”

Jerry Pierce, chairman of the National Federation of Independent Business of Florida executive board, said the proposal “hits a good target for manufacturing.”

“Northerners think of Florida as the Southern part of the United States, a vacation land, but we’re the center of the Western Hemisphere with all these ports and great airports,” Pierce said.

The budget includes a 2.1 percent increase to public safety, to $4.7 billion, and an 11.22 percent increase for transportation projects.

The $8.3 billion for transportation includes $3.6 billion for highway construction, $144 million for county transportation projects, $288 million for seaports, $169 million for aviation, $160 million for roads, and $20 million for Space Florida.

While Scott proposes $2,500 raises for teachers -- $460 million total -- and a one-time bonus of $1,200 – $167 million -- to other state workers who have received “satisfactory” evaluations, the budget cuts the state workforce by 3.1 percent, from 117,930 positions to 114,283.

Union officials questioned the bonus proposals before the agenda was released on Thursday.

"We appreciate the governor's acknowledgement that the officers deserve a reward for their outstanding accomplishments,” Matt Puckett, Florida PBA executive director, stated in a release.

“But we believe base salary increases are long overdue. Some officers have gone six years without a wage increase due to state budget constraints -- not poor performance."

Doug Martin, of the American Federation of State, Municipal and Council Employees, said Scott's offer was impressive, but not good enough. In the past, Scott had only offered bonuses for 35 percent of the workforce.

"It's definitely better than what we expected," Martin told the Tallahassee Democrat.

Martin, while noting the offer is “generous,” prefers cost-of-living salary increases for his union members, who haven’t seen a base raise since 2007.

Reach Jim Turner at jtu
rner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

Tags: News, Politics

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