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    Bush proposes $470-million in new programs

    Lawmakers can reject his plans in the next state budget, but they usually stick fairly close to the suggestions.

    By ALISA ULFERTS, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 7, 2002


    TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Jeb Bush unveiled additional budget proposals Wednesday, revealing how he wants to spend some $470-million he set aside last month for new programs and contingencies.

    Programs for the developmentally disabled, prescriptions for low-income seniors and drug treatment for addicts would benefit under the plan, as would some education and public safety programs.

    Bush earmarked the fund for future use when he released his $48.7-billion budget proposal last month, saying he wanted to use the money for new initiatives and to be ready for another drop in tax revenues.

    Bush was out of town Wednesday, but said in a statement his plans for the fund help Floridians who need it the most.

    "Today's proposal brings additional funding to priority areas where our state must continue to meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens and youngest students," Bush said.

    Funding for Pinellas County's drug court, which took a major hit during the Legislature's December budget-cutting session, would be restored under Bush's proposal.

    The governor also proposes spending another $90-million in state funds and $72-million in federal funds to get developmentally disabled Floridians off waiting lists for state services such as breaks for caregivers.

    Besides needing legislative approval, some of Bush's proposals depend on Congress approving President Bush's budget. The president wants to partner with states to give low-income seniors some prescription drug coverage. Gov. Bush wants to take his brother up on that and spend Florida's share of $32-million to cover some 245,000 Medicare patients beginning Oct. 1.

    And some poor pregnant women whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid coverage could be covered under the president's proposed federal program to provide care for unborn babies. The state would spend just $200-million and qualify for $41-million in federal funds.

    Also under Bush's program, another 16,000 low-income kids would qualify for help in preparing for school. Bush wants to add $41-million to the state's School Readiness program.

    Lawmakers can either adopt or reject Bush's recommendations when they draft the next state budget in coming weeks, but they typically stick fairly close to the suggestions.

    Senate Democratic Leader Tom Rossin said Bush is better at running a campaign than the state.

    "The real question is how many of these proposals will be in the budget he signs at the end of session," said Rossin, D-Royal Palm Beach.

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