It took the full nine weeks, but lawmakers approved both of Scott’s legislative priorities — attaching conditions to both. The $2,500 teacher pay raise was not the across-the-board increase Scott called for in January. Instead, it is subject to school board-approved teacher evaluation plans in all 67 counties “any time before June 2014.”
The manufacturing equipment tax break won’t take effect until next April and expires in three years unless lawmakers renew it. It also could be subject to a constitutional challenge because it reduces revenue to cities and counties.
“We’ve been good to the governor,” Weatherford said.
Gaetz made it clear that Scott’s two priorities are critical to his plans to seeking a second term in 2014, despite persistently poor job approval ratings from voters.
“The governor got two wins,” Gaetz said. “It gives him a lift going into the summer and going into the election cycle.”
Lawmakers blessed a $74.5 billion spending plan that includes $1.1 billion more for public schools and a 3 percent tuition increase at colleges and universities that Scott opposes.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, noted that the budget also sets aside $2.8 billion in cash reserves and spends $500 million to reduce the unfunded liability in the state pension fund. “Don’t let people tell you we went on a spending spree. We didn’t,” he told senators.
The budget passed the Senate 40-0 and the House, 106-11.
Democrats who in past years voted against budgets that cut programs sided with the Republican majority this time.
“It is not only the fact that we had a better economy,” Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, told Republicans. “It is the spirit that you brought to this chamber … I’ve felt included. It’s been refreshing and wonderful.”
Lawmakers tinkered with the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. by adding a clearinghouse to steer policyholders toward private insurers, but backed off raising rates for new policyholders. They banned use of air surveillance drones by law enforcement without search warrants, and the Senate deadlocked 20-20 for the second straight year on a “parent trigger” bill to give parents more control over failing schools.
The mood throughout the Capitol was generally more upbeat than in recent years, for one reason: money.
“Money makes people smile,” said Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.
Weatherford and the House did a big favor to the insurance industry on Friday by not taking up a bill that would have repealed a lucrative industry jobs credit after 26 years and used the money to repeal car tag fees. That was disappointing, Gaetz said.
Gaetz won bipartisan praise for his efficient and evenhanded style of governing.
As the contentious and confusing work of lawmaking, known as the making of “sausage,” wound down for another year, a creative lobbyist brought trays of homemade sausage for hungry visitors awaiting the traditional hankie-drop signifying Sine Die, or the end of the session.
Herald/Times staff writers Rochelle Koff, Tia Mitchell, Toluse Olorunnipa, Katie Sanders and Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report. Contact Steve Bousquet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-224-7263.