House council approves $70-billion state budget

Published March 31, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - The House Policy and Budget Council adopted a $70-billion budget Friday that includes higher college tuition and higher property taxes to support a $1.2-billion jump in public school spending next year.

The budget relies on $545-million more from property owners statewide to help run day-to-day operations of public schools.

Despite House Speaker Marco Rubio's call for a ban on parochial projects, there are plenty, for Republicans and Democrats alike.

"This budget has member projects in it," said Rep. Joe Pickens, R-Palatka.

Examples include $1.5-million for a rowing training center at the Florida Institute of Technology, $1-million for streetscape improvements to Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale; $500,000 in "gymnasium enhancements" in Nassau County, $250,000 in renovations to the Citrus County fairgrounds, and $100,000 for a fire station in Port Orange.

Two items added to the budget Friday were $100-million more for affordable housing and $10-million for the Johnnie B. Byrd Jr. Alzheimer's Center and Research Institute in Tampa.

The Republican-controlled council rejected Democratic efforts to eliminate a 5 percent tuition increase for community colleges, and to appropriate money for a verifiable paper trail in future elections.

Friday's vote is one stage in a long budget process. The full House will adopt a budget after the Passover-Easter recess, setting the stage for negotiations with the Senate.