Budget done.by Dara Kam | May 4th, 2009
Lawmakers closed out the $65 billion budget this morning that includes nearly $2 billion in taxes and fees, including a $380 million property tax increase if school boards approve it.
Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander and House counterparts David Rivera and Marcelo Llorente resolved most of their disagreements over the weekend and sealed the deal this morning without sending any unresolved disputes to Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul.
One of the losers in the deal: Florida Forever, the state’s land-buying program received no new money. But the budget chiefs did agree to issue $250 million in bonding authority from this year. They could not sell the bonds because of a decline in real estate transaction taxes used to pay them back.
The legislature closed a real estate tax loophole during the session that they hope will generate enough money to keep Florida Forever running next year.
A last-minute change this weekend shifted $25 million for Florida Forever to the Everglades clean-up program, bringing the total for that to $50 million.
Also included in the budget are more than $800 million in fees, including a hike in driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations and court filings. And smokers will pay an extra buck-a-pack for cigarettes to raise about another $800 million to be spent on the state’s Medicaid program.
State workers earning more than $45,000 a year will see a 2 percent salary cut but university workers are exempt. That amounts to a $30 million cut from general revenue, far less than the $100 million in state employee pay cuts the House had original proposed.
School boards, meanwhile, got the OK to hike property taxes an additional 25 cents per $1,000 of value with a majority vote. Voters would have to sign off on the tax increase at the general election in 2010. The tax increase would raise $380 million for school districts statewide if implemented by all 67 counties, including nearly $17 million for Palm Beach County.
Bright Futures will no longer cover tuition hikes, including the 8 percent tuition increase included in the budget. Lawmakers also gave universities the ability to raise tuition up to 15 percent.