News from Tallahassee: Special Session - Week of June 8, 2015

Tallahassee - June 12, 2015 - After several Conference Committee meetings where House and Senate lawmakers presented offers and counter-offers, unresolved differences have now been transferred, or "bumped", to Senate and House appropriation committee chairs Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon) and Representative Richard Corcoran (R-Land O' Lakes) in the next phase of budget negotiations. 

If Senator Lee and Representative Corcoran can't agree, the issues will be directly negotiated by Senate President Andy Gardiner, (R-Orlando) and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, (R-Merritt Island).

 One of the biggest issues "bumped" from lower-level negotiators to the House and Senate budget chiefs was how to structure payments from the state's Low Income Pool program (LIP) to hospitals and other health-care providers that care for large numbers of low-income patients. This dispute over the LIP program, and a plan to provide insurance coverage to poor Floridians, helped derail the regular session this spring.

The Senate's side of the joint education budget conference committee made its third and final offer before the remaining issues got bumped to the at-large budget chiefs June 9, 2015.

Student funding determined
Public schools would get $14.066 billion under the latest Senate offer, moving closer to the $14.069 billion House position.

The two chambers agreed to a 3% increase for public school operation or a $207 per-pupil funding increase, though minor technical differences for the Florida Education Finance Program remain. "Education … will have its best year in Florida history," said Senator Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) who co-chaired the Education Conference committee with Representative Eric Fresen (R-Miami).

The state's share of the program is $10.934 billion which will be matched with local property taxes totaling more than $19 billion.
The K-12 budget falls short of Governor Rick Scott’s promise to boost per-student funding to a record level. But Representative Erik Fresen (R-Miami) said the budget accommodates more than 30,000 new students while at the same time providing record overall funding for the K-12 system.

PECO Funding Yet To Be Determined

Facilities Capital Outlay (FCO) was not included in the conference committee budget negotiations since capital outlay dollars come from the PECO Trust Fund, which is not part of the Education budget. The FCO appropriations will be negotiated between the main Appropriation chairs now that the conference committees are done meeting.

The House included $100 million for PECO funding for charter schools in its budget proposal, but the Senate included zero dollar allocation of PECO funds for charter schools. The actual amount allocated to charter schools will be part of the final budget negotiations between the House and Senate leaders.

When Will They Vote on a Final Budget?

Senate President Andy Gardiner on Wednesday told fellow senators he hopes to have a state budget for next year finished and ready for a vote by next Friday, June 19th.

Gardiner indicated during the brief floor session on Wednesday that the Senate will next meet this Friday at 9 a.m. He then said he hoped that he and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli will put the finishing touches on the budget the following Monday, and have budgets “on the desks” of members in time for a vote on Friday. The 20-day special session had been scheduled to last through next Saturday.

The FCPCS Advocacy Team continues to closely monitor the activities during special session and will report back to your as it progresses. # # #