House Speaker Will Weatherford just released budget allocations for committees to begin piecing together a spending plan. Weatherford’s plan, which includes a pay raise for state workers, restoration of past cuts to university funding and a commitment to not sweep the State Transportation Trust Fund, is reflective of the Wesley Chapel Republican’s belief that Florida “is emerging from one of its most challenging economic downturns in recent history.”
Among the priorities Weatherford outlines, according to a memo to members, are:
· Maintaining in excess of $1.2 billion in General Revenue reserves;
· Providing for a minimum of $1 billion in new money to the state’s K-12 funding formula, the FEFP;
· Stabilizing funding in our institutions of higher learning; including full restoration of the $300 million reduction in state university funding that occurred in FY 2012-13.
· Strengthening Florida’s safety net by increasing funding to serve our most vulnerable populations such as our elderly, disabled and citizens in need of mental health and substance abuse treatment. Specifically provide for funding to ensure a smooth transition to our improved diagnosis-related grouping model of hospital reimbursement.
· Providing for the funding of our state’s transportation needs without sweeping the State Transportation Trust Fund.
· Continuing the state’s effort to foster economic development and provide assistance to our communities.
· Ensuring continued public safety by addressing the deficits in our correctional system, funding initiatives to further reduce crime and appropriately fund to our judicial system.
· Protecting and enhancing Florida’s environment by funding measures to improve water supply and quality, as well as to purchase lands to preserve Florida’s unique natural resources and provide recreational opportunities
· Providing recurring funding to fully address the unfunded actuarial liability (UAL) of the Florida Retirement System
· Rewarding hard working state employees with the first across the board pay raise in over six years
· Preserving our state infrastructure by investing in long-overdue maintenance of our colleges, universities and state facilities