Budget deal done — seasoned with porkby John Kennedy | May 3rd, 2011
House and Senate budget negotiators reached a deal Tuesday morning on a state budget — after leaders broke an impasse over health and human services funding and also tucked millions of dollars in hometown projects into the spending plan to satisfy key lawmakers.
The deal keeps lawmakers on track for an on-time adjournment Friday, the final scheduled day of the session. It also may allow Gov. Rick Scott to claim a modest achievement — with $308 million in tax breaks tucked into the proposal.
That’s far from the $2 billion Scott demanded. But Senate budget-writer J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said the first-year governor should be satisfied.
“We all fight hard for the things we believe in,” Alexander said. “But at the end of the day, I think the governor has got a lot of the things he’s interested in, including some reduction in the corporate tax.”
Scott came into the session seeking a more than $450 million cut in the corporate income tax. Instead, lawmakers have advanced a $30 million reduction — a level close to what they’re also setting aside for a three-day back-to-school tax holiday in late summer.
In other issues, the Senate abandoned its push to slash spending on the state’s Medically Needy and Medicare Aged and Disabled programs, which serve 90,000 severely sick and elderly Floridians. Instead, the programs have maintained current-year funding.
But hospitals will absorb an even deeper reduction in Medicaid rate payments than earlier proposed by either the House or Senate. Hospitals will lose 12 percent of state reimbursement payments and nursing homes will absorb a 6.5 percent reduction.
The budget deal also was flavored with pork.
The University of South Florida’s Polytechnic college in Lakeland, which has long been helped by Alexander, drew a stunning $46 million in state funding in the budget — about one-third of the state’s Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) total — far outstripping the University of Florida, Florida State University and other bigger schools.
House budget chief Denise Grimsley, R- Sebring, also represents a district that includes a large chunk of Polk County.
“There’s a lot of advocates for every part of the budget,” Alexander said.