Senate passes $70 billion budgetby Dara Kam | April 7th, 2011
The Florida Senate approved its $69.8 billion spending plan by a 33-6 vote after spending about an hour politely debating its pros and cons.
Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander acknowledged the plan is tough on state workers, who would be required to contribute between 2 and 6 percent to their pensions.
“We are asking a lot from our state employees. It has been a while since folks have had raises. I get that. But I also know in my district virtually every business has had layoffs…Many businesses have closed. Many businesses have struggled to remain open,” Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said, adding that he hoped his budget would prevent lawmakers from having to make future cuts to state workers.
“One of the biggest pressures we have in our job is when we’re insecure about our future,” he said. He said he hopes the plan gives workers “a reasonable confidence…that we will not be continuing to add to that burden going forward.”
According to Sen. Don Gaetz, lawmakers could either sign off on the nearly $4 billion spending cuts in the budget or raise taxes.
But Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston said lawmakers had not even attempted to close tax loopholes that could have pumped billions back into spending on health care for the poor, frail and elderly.
“In the long run, I really believe this budget is being balanced on the backs of our public employees, state workers and our working families,” Rich said. Closing loopholes are not tax increases. Nobody’s standing up here and urging a tax increase.
What I am urging is fairness in our tax structure so we don’t constantly put the emphasis on those who have the least and give to those who have the most.”