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Budget deal increases health care funding by $450 million, mostly recurring, general revenue dollars

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The House on Friday rejected a Senate-driven health care expansion plan, passed a $300 million tax reduction package and capped the day by releasing the allocations that tell the story behind the budget deal that was agreed to by the Legislature this week.

Working through staff, legislative leaders reached a deal on how to divide nearly $28.9 billion between health care, education, transportation and the environment, the majority of which is recurring.

The agreement puts $8.7 billion in health care general revenue funding, a $450 million jump from the initial House budget passed in March. Most of that increase, or $423 million, is recurring general revenue.

As part of the budget deal the House backed off bonding for Amendment 1 and agreed to pare back spending from its original March budget by $113 million, nearly all of which was non-recurring general revenue.

The budget agreement puts $388.6 million in state-administered funds and fixed capital outlay, an overall increase in spending of $31.2 million from the initial House position. While overall spending is reduced, the budget agreement does increase the amount of recurring general revenue spending toward the pot of money which is used for state employee pay raises and fixed capital outlay projects, among other items.

The House released the budget details Friday evening after debating the merits of a health care expansion plan pushed by the Florida Senate that would have used Medicaid dollars available under the federal health care law, called Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act.

The expansion issue bedeviled the Legislature throughout the regular 2015 session, leading the House Republicans to hold a closed-door meeting and causing a budget impasse that could not be resolved. A frustrated House of Representatives adjourned three days early because a budget deal could not be reached. A majority of the Supreme Court agreed with Senate Democrats that the adjournment violated the Florida Constitution.

Following Friday’s defeat of a health care bill, passage of a tax package and budget agreement announcement House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, looking relieved, addressed the press.

Crisafulli even joked with the press, who normally are quick with questions but on the occasion seemed to be at a loss of where to begin. “Speechless,” Crisafulli said, joking at the pause. The next move, Crisafulli said, was to “go to conference.”

Senate budget Chief Tom Lee said earlier in the day the goal would be for the conferees to meet through the weekend and to have the subcommittees come to an agreement by Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the tax cut package on Friday amounts to $300 million for the 2015-16 budget but increases to $400 million after all the tax breaks are fully implemented. If passed, the tax package would reduce cellphone taxes by about $10 per user annually.

See the full allocations breakdown agreed to by both chambers here.

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