Cannon allocates cash — and some promisesby John Kennedy | March 21st, 2011
Just hours before Senate budget panels begin work Monday afternoon, House Speaker Dean Cannon did his own bit of budget calculus — unveiling the amount of taxpayer cash he’s allocated to each of the state’s big spending categories.
As usual, education is getting the biggest share of dollars, $8.2 billion for public schools, alone. Close behind is Heath and Human Services, drawing $7.1 billion in general revenue, even as both the House and Senate look to trim future costs with a sweeping overhaul of the Medicaid program.
In outlining the spending in a memo to fellow lawmakers, Cannon also made some commitments.
The Winter Park Republican attempted to fortify the House’s case for demanding 5 percent paycheck contributions from the 655,000 government employees enrolled in the Florida Retirement System, a deeper cut than recommended by the Senate.
Cannon said that when the contribution level is included, school districts will have only .2 percent less in state dollars for classroom needs than was set aside last year.
He also said the House plans to keep $2.2 billion in reserves in its budget proposal to keep Wall Street satisfied with the state’s current bond rating, and to have cash-on-hand if the economy sours further.
Although Gov. Rick Scott is nudging the state toward revamping the corrections system, Cannon said the House has no interest in easing back on adult sentencing guidelines to save money.
He also pledged that the expected reworking of Medicaid — steering almost 3 million low-income Floridians into managed care – won’t result in more patients winding up in emergeny rooms, costing hospitals more.
Cannon concluded that the House’s budget work, expected to begin later this week, will emphasize the “delivery of services to people” over the “purchase of things.”
Those labeled purchasers — and certain to face a tougher time –included environmental. transportation and general government programs.