With $1 billion more for schools, education conferees hand keys to budget bossesby John Kennedy | April 22nd, 2013
Budget conferees working on education — the biggest-ticket item in the state’s $74-billion-plus spending plan — effectively abandoned efforts late Monday toward reaching a final agreement.
The House’s push for 6 percent college and university tuition increases, and the Senate’s demand that state scholarship programs including Bright Futures funding avoid any cuts were among a handful of areas dividing House and Senate negotiators.
Public school funding does look generally on track to receive slighly more than a $1 billion funding increase next fall. Gov. Rick Scott had sought a $1.2 billion increase, that had initially been matched by the Senate.
“We made a good faith effort…and I thought we could get there,” said Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, the House’s lead negotiator on schools, after a final round of talks yielded no overall agreement late Monday.
Scott and the Senate are rejecting any talk of tuition increases. And the House earlier reduced its 6 percent demand to 4 percent — only to ratchet its tuition proposal back up to 6 percent in its final offer as it sought agreement in other education areas.
Fresen’s counterpart, Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said the two sides had settled plenty of lesser matters. But big policy differences still divide lawmakers.
Next stop: Budget chairs, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, will take a stab at the work for a few days, beginning tomorrow evening. They’ll have a chance to rope into their deal-making a wide range of spending differences in environmental, economic development and health and human service programs.
Lawmakers have to button-up the budget by early next week for the session to conclude on time, May 3.