After five straight years of budget cuts, Scott’s spending push is a preview of the upcoming scramble for surplus money, said Florida TaxWatch researcher Kurt Wenner.
“The longer you go where you don’t give out money, the more pent-up demand you’ll create,” Wenner said. “When you finally get money, that demand will be intense.”
The parade of requests for more money has just begun:
• Reducing an unfunded liability in the state pension fund carries an estimated cost of $300 to $500 million.
• Steady growth in Medicaid case loads is projected to cost the state $300 million next year.
• Nearly 30,000 new students are expected to enroll in public schools next fall at a cost of $184 million, and school districts want up to $100 million more to make campuses safer in the aftermath of the mass killings in Newtown, Conn.
• Florida universities have asked for $118 million in return for forgoing any new tuition hikes, and they would like the state to restore $300 million cut from their budgets this year.
State money for Medicaid, schools and universities comes from the same pot of general tax money that would pay for a teacher pay increase.
The current state budget is $69.9 billion, but Scott and the Legislature can only exert influence over about one-third of that amount — the tax revenue Florida residents send to Tallahassee. The rest is federal money or state trust funds that is set aside for a specific purpose, such as building roads or reimbursing hospitals.
Florida has about $2.1 billion in reserves set aside for emergencies. Keeping a reserve equal to 10 percent of the state’s tax base, as Wall Street bonding agencies prefer, would cost $2.6 billion next year.
“There are a lot of demands,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart.
Times/Herald staff writers Lisa Gartner and Toluse Olorunnipa contributed to this report.