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Senate plan: Spend $1-billion

Senators haven't said yet how they would generate the revenue.

Published April 9, 2003

TALLAHASSEE - The state Senate's original budget plan cut so deeply, the upper chamber was accused of trying to extort a tax increase out of the more conservative House.

The plan the Senate approved Tuesday restored many of those cuts but on one condition: nearly $1-billion in higher taxes.

Among the things the Senate would fund with the extra money are some of Gov. Jeb Bush's favorite mentoring programs. Education got a substantial boost over the Senate's original spending plan. Ditto for health care programs for the poor. Those two categories took the bulk of the Senate's $1.4-billion increase, of which some $950-million depends on new state money. The rest would come from federal matching funds.

Senators said their budget meets the state's needs.

"Today we will decide what kind of state we want for our people," Senate appropriations chief Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, said before the vote.

House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, R-Plant City, criticized the Senate budget, saying it depended on "pixie dust," while "we're doing a reality budget. We're living within our means."

The Senate has not said where the extra money would come from. One idea is to allow parimutuel facilities to add slot machines and tax the revenue.

Here's a sample of what the Senate would pay for with the extra money:

$12.3-million for mentoring programs Bush holds dear.

$30-million more for need-based scholarships.

$288-million in basic school funding, which upped the Senate's per-pupil spending by $100. "That's equivalent to a 4 percent teacher raise," said Sen. Lisa Carlton, R-Osprey, the Senate's education spending chief.

$66-million more for universities, including $9.5-million more for the University of South Florida.

$105.7-million in general revenue to restore the Medically Needy program, which helps moderate-income people who have exhausted their own health insurance. Participants would have to pay a greater share of their costs.

$18.7-million for increased child abuse investigations at the Department of Children and Families.

$8.9-million for pay increases for DCF frontline workers, including $368,168 for the Pinellas Sheriff's Office and $168,744 for the Pasco Sheriff's Office.

$15-million for the youth education Tobacco Pilot Program.

$345,000 for the Department of Agriculture to buy new vehicles.

$2.2-million for the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to buy and replace boats, motors and trailers.

- Times staff writer Steve Bousquet and researcher Deirdre Morrow contributed to this report.

[Last modified April 9, 2003, 02:03:05]

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