Gov., Legislature strike deal: Jefferson Correctional stays open, Hillsborough's closes

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Jefferson Correction Institution will remain open under a deal between the Legislature and the governor’s office, budget negotiators announced Saturday, reports the News Service of Floirda. “We have a clear agreement between the governor, the Department of Corrections, the House and Senate that Jefferson will continue to operate,” Senate Budget Chairman J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said at a meeting with House Appropriations Chairwoman Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring. Alexander was explaining the decision to remove a provision earmarking nearly $10.3 million to keep Jefferson open. A plan by the Department of Corrections to close the prison in rural Jefferson County, which is the county’s leading employer with 177 jobs, caused an uproar in the community that led lawmakers in both chambers to come down against shuttering the facility. However, Alexander and Grimsley decided not to keep Hillsborough Correctional Institution open — another facility some lawmakers wanted to save — to save more than $8.3 million. The deal reached on the prison budget Saturday also recognizes almost $14.1 million in savings from the privatization of inmate health care, despite a lawsuit challenging the health-care plan. “Last time I checked, the constitution doesn’t allow courts to appropriate money,” Alexander said. The pair also agreed to allow Gov. Rick Scott more freedom to use $61.2 million to help bring jobs to the state. “He’s, I think, made good arguments that in his efforts to sell our state and bring quality employers in there, he needed to be able to make commitments faster,” Alexander said. Scott would also be able to ask the Legislative Budget Commission for permission to spend another $25 million in incentives. Some of the larger items still have to be resolved — including disputes over how to divvy up nearly $300 million in cuts to higher education and major portions of the state’s health-care spending plan.

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