Highlights From Florida's Nearly $78.7 Billion Budget

The Florida Legislature is expected to pass a nearly $78.8 billion budget on Friday before ending its special session. Lawmakers were forced to hold a special session to pass a budget after failing to reach an agreement during their regular 60-day session.

Here are 10 things to know about the spending plan:

SCHOOLS: It boosts spending for public schools by $780 million and would increase per-student funding by 3 percent. But the increase relies on a nearly $500 million rise in local property taxes. The new budget also includes $44 million for a bonus program that will award $10,000 scholarships to more than 4,400 teachers. School districts that require school uniforms for kindergarten through 8th grade students will get an extra $10 per student.

TAXES: Lawmakers agreed to cut taxes by more than $400 million as part of the budget package. That includes a decrease in cellphones and cable television taxes that should save consumers about $20 annually. Legislators also agreed to a 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday in August that covers clothes and school supplies. Legislators also agreed to waive sales taxes on college textbooks for a year.

ENVIRONMENT: Legislators set aside $55 million to acquire conservation lands but only about $17 million going to the Florida Forever program. There's nearly $50 million for springs restoration projects and nearly $82 million for Everglades restoration work. The budget also provides $32 million for beach and dune restoration projects.

PERSONAL LEARNING SCHOLARSHIPS: The budget triples spending on the state's fledgling personal learning scholarship accounts. The $55 million will provide therapy, tutoring and educational services to children with disabilities. Legislators also agreed to expand student eligibility.

STATE WORKERS: There are no across-the-board pay raises in the budget. State troopers working in six counties will get a $5,000 boost while forest service employees will get a $2,000 increase. The budget eliminates roughly 1,000 jobs, mostly in the Department of Health.

HEALTH CARE: The budget does not include any federal aid to expand health care coverage or Medicaid eligibility. House Republicans rejected a Senate proposal to expand coverage. Legislators did agree to use $400 million to offset the expected loss of federal aid that goes to hospitals that treat uninsured and low-income patients.

TUITION: The budget includes no university or community college tuition hikes.

PRISONS: Florida's prison system will get $10 million to help pay for maintenance and repairs at aging facilities. Legislators also added money to deal with a deficit in the Department of Correction's operating budget that should allow it to fill positions it had been leaving vacant. The budget also includes $2.26 million to hire 17 Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators who will focus on inmate deaths.

HEALTH INSURANCE: Florida legislators kept intact low-cost health insurance for legislative staff, Gov. Rick Scott and other top state officials. Scott, a multimillionaire, currently pays less than $400 a year for family coverage. He had recommended raising the cost. Legislators pay the same higher rate as other rank-and-file state workers.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing arm, had its funding remain steady at $74 million. The budget provides $43 million for economic incentives used to recruit businesses. Scott had asked for $85 million.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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