State Politics

Billions of dollars divide House, Senate and governor as state budget battle begins

Whose budget will prevail? From left, Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes were all smiles a year ago on the first day of the 2016 session, Jan. 12, 2016, in Tallahassee.
Whose budget will prevail? From left, Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes were all smiles a year ago on the first day of the 2016 session, Jan. 12, 2016, in Tallahassee. AP

The battle lines over Florida’s next state budget are finally clear.

On public schools, universities and healthcare, the House and Senate have dramatically different views of Florida next year, according to competing draft budget plans unveiled this week.

The Senate wants big increases for schools and universities that the House opposes. The House is determined to give out a larger package of tax cuts, which the Senate doesn’t necessarily support.

Across the board, lawmakers want to cut Medicaid spending, but just how much hospitals stand to lose varies wildly between the two chambers and Scott. What’s more, they can’t agree on whether to include in the budget $607 million from the feds for hospitals that treat low income patients. Gov. Rick Scott and the Senate do, the House does not.

There are three issues that could prevent the Legislature from getting a budget out on time. They are property taxes, Scott’s job incentive programs and toxic algae from Lake Okeechobee.

The Senate and Scott want to use rising revenue from property taxes to pay for education increases. It would mean more than $540 million in extra tax collections, but House Speaker Richard Corcoran dismisses the idea as a tax increase. Corcoran wants to end funding for Scott’s job incentives through Enterprise Florida. The Senate wants to fund those. Meanwhile, Senate President Joe Negron has been adamant that the Legislature invest in water storage around Lake Okeechobee to prevent widespread pollution.

It’s all got to be resolved by May 5, the last day of the Legislature’s annual session, otherwise the state could be facing special sessions and a struggle to get a budget done in time for the new fiscal year that starts July 1.

“It’s getting to crunch time,” Corcoran told the Herald/Times.

Next week, both chambers start work on their own drafts. Once the chambers pass their own spending plans the negotiations with each other and Scott begin.

If they stray too far from Scott’s priorities, he always has his veto pen.

Here are some of the biggest budget differences.

Total budget

Governor: $83.5 billion

Senate: $83.2 billion

House: $81.2 billion

Full-time positions

Governor: 113,758

Senate: 113,548

House: 112,096

Education

Governor: Increase in K-12 funding: $815.2 million. Total per-student funding: $7,421 — an extra $216 per student.

Senate: Increase for K-12 funding: $790 million. Total per-student funding: $7,414 — an extra $210 per student.

House: Increase for K-12 funding: $251.3 million. Total per-student funding: $7,224 — an extra $19 per student.

Property taxes

Governor: Extra revenue from increasing property values over last year: $474.5 million

Senate: Extra revenue from increasing property values over last year: $535.1 million.

House: Less revenue from property values vs. last year: -$61,729.

Visit Florida

Governor: $76 million

Senate: $76 million

House: $25 million

Job incentives

Governor: $85 million

Senate: $84.4 million

House: 0

Cuts to Medicaid, hospitals

House: $621.8 million

Senate: $258.6 million

Governor: $929 million

Lake Okeechobee reservoir

House: 0

Senate: $1.2 billion (via bonding)

Governor: 0

Times/Herald staff writers Michael Auslen and Kristen M. Clark contributed to this report.

Contact Jeremy Wallace at jwallace@tampabay.com. Follow @JeremySWallace

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