House releases allocation plan

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The House released budget allocations Thursday that included mechanisms to cover any future economic turmoil, ratcheting up pressure on Senate leaders to complete the session on time, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

In a memo announcing the amounts the House would spend in each area of the state budget, Cannon also told lawmakers that the House would go along with Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal to boost state spending on public education by around $1 billion — though education leaders point out that losses elsewhere will cancel out most of that gain.

“The House budget will prioritize K-12 education,” Cannon wrote. “This subcommittee will receive the greatest percentage of the General Revenue allocation as well as the greatest increase in funding.”

The memo provides the clearest signals yet of how the House plans to deal with a close to $2 billion shortfall in the face of a lagging economic recovery and increasing demands from education and health care on the state budget.

Scott would also win a victory on at least the concept of tax cuts, with Cannon calling for the House to set aside a total of $100 million — with three-quarters of that money recurring — for lowering taxes. Scott proposed deducting $23 million for tax cuts this year, with a constitutional amendment allowing for further reductions.

The House blueprint would also set aside $1 billion in reserves, a longstanding goal of both chambers.

The House plan also already opens up likely areas of conflict with the Senate. Trust funds in transportation and economic development — which the upper chamber often guards zealously in budget negotiations — would face a $211 million sweep.

And the plan calls for mechanisms to deal with any sudden changes in state tax revenues — an apparent reference to Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ insistence that lawmakers consider postponing the end of the session because of continuing economic uncertainty. Cannon’s memo was not specific on what those “contingencies” might be.

“These contingencies will provide self-executing direction on how to enact reductions or provide additional spending authority, without accessing reserves, should circumstances change,” he wrote.

In a statement issued moments after the release of the blueprint, House Appropriations Chairwoman Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, underscored the need for the session to end on-time.

“There are many difficult decisions ahead, but those decisions should not be delayed with the hope that additional revenue will make tough choices easier,” Grimsley said. “Florida’s families don’t have the luxury of delaying challenging financial choices and neither should government.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.