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How to complete budget talks? Just add pork

by John Kennedy | March 5th, 2012

A final state budget deal Monday cut $24.8 million from Florida Atlantic University as House and Senate negotiators capped days of talks with last-minute additions that tucked dozens of hometown projects into a $70 billion spending plan.

The agreement sets the stage for budgets to be placed on the desks of lawmakers today. A constitutionally required 72-hour waiting period means final votes are likely Friday, the two-month session’s last scheduled day.

FAU’s reduction trims about 10 percent of the school’s budget and is part of a $300 million cut leveled across Florida’s 11 public universities.

Officials said FAU can use $16 million in reserves to help ease the lost dollars. Still, it marks the fifth straight year of declining state aid for universities – a trend that has heightened the push for tuition increases.

The higher education cuts come even as the budget deal anticipates a 12th state university – with the Legislature approving separating the University of South Florida from its polytechnic campus in Lakeland.

Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, spearheaded the break with USF, as the term-limited lawmaker will leave office in November with a new school created in his home Polk County.

But Alexander wasn’t the only leading lawmaker to land a favored project Monday as millions of dollars was steered to community centers, social service programs, local road projects and even $5 million for a Sarasota rowing center, already vetoed once by Gov. Rick Scott.

Alexander’s House counterpart, Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, steered $520,203 to an international baccalaureate program at her hometown high school.

When asked about what critics call political pork, Alexander said lawmakers had a right to fight for hometown spending.

“It’s a fair amount, all and all,” Alexander said of the projects. “We haven’t done a lot of that in a number of years…but at the end of the day, each of us is elected to represent our districts and their unique needs.”

Scott, though,  last year vetoed a record $615 million in spending by lawmakers. Mindful of that, Alexander added a caution to the items lawmakers managed to include Monday.

“Of course, most all that will be subject to discussion with the governor,” he added.

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2 Responses to “How to complete budget talks? Just add pork”

  1. CALL THEM OUT Says:

    PATHETIC.

    CALL YOUR REP & SEN:

    http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/Find

    ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

    The FASCIST Republicans have to go!

  2. GT Says:

    “as millions of dollars was steered to community centers, social service programs, local road projects”, if Democrats do it that’s ok. When Repub. do it it’s pork? The college thing is about union wages.

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