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Old 05-17-2007, 03:55 PM
Location: Living in Paradise
5,702 posts, read 22,258,528 times
Reputation: 2987


Governor Charlie Crist and Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp today unveiled the Crist/Kottkamp Budget Recommendations for Fiscal Year 2007-08. This year’s budget recommendation is $71.2 billion, three percent lower than Fiscal Year 2006-07, and will enable the state to meet future obligations by setting aside $2.35 billion in reserves. The Crist/Kottkamp budget reflects a comprehensive plan to address the people’s priorities for the future.

“It is the government’s responsibility to meet its citizen’s needs while living within its means,” said Governor Crist. “With the Legislature’s support, Florida will remain a safe, healthy and prosperous state. These budget recommendations ensure the public safety of Floridians, provide tax cuts for businesses and families and increase teacher pay. They also relieve property taxes and strengthen Florida’s vibrant economy, natural resources and education.”

The Crist/Kottkamp recommended budget also has many “firsts,” including $20 million for stem cell research aimed at curing degenerative diseases and $32.5 million to establish a paper trail for all votes cast on Election Day. The proposed budget also includes $50 million to provide incentives for research, manufacturing and distribution of ethanol.

Additional highlights of the Crist/Kottkamp budget recommendation for Fiscal Year 2007-08 include the following:

# Health and human services — Funding recommendations include $36.7 million to establish a state stockpile of flu antiviral courses to treat influenza, $78.9 million for additional mental health forensic treatment beds and $22.6 million to promote child adoption.

# Environment —Proposed budget items include $400 million, an increase of $100 million over current funding levels, for Florida Forever, a land conservation program, to preserve natural resources; $100 million for Everglades restoration; $50 million —double current funding levels — to expand Lake Okeechobee’s water—storage areas and treatment marshes; and $40 million to improve the environmental health of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, which are important estuaries that affect the quality of life and economy of nearby communities.

# Economic development — Budget recommendations include $100 million in incentive funds to attract businesses and research projects to Florida, $75 million to attract film and television productions to Florida and $7.4 billion for the work program to build roads.

# State employee salaries and benefits —Funding proposals include an across—the—board salary increase of 2.44 percent, effective October 1, 2007, which is the equivalent of the Consumer Price Index; law enforcement, corrections and probation officers and special agent classes would receive a five-percent salary increase; merit increases of up to 10 percent for the top 10 percent of each agency’s positions; and no increase in employee or retiree health insurance premiums while maintaining current benefit levels.

# Sales tax relief — Recommendations include making four sales tax holidays permanent. They are the week—long Back—to—School and Hurricane Preparedness sales tax holidays, the Energy Efficient Appliance Tax Holiday, as well as extending it from one week to two weeks, and establishing a new reduction in state sales tax on cable, cell phones and satellite television services by one-quarter percent. The new tax cut would save Floridians $40 million, and all four tax breaks would cumulatively save Floridians $125 million.

# Education —Proposed funding amounts to $33.4 billion, which includes required local funding and an increase of four percent, or $1.3 billion, over current year funding; average per—student funding would increase 7.5 percent per student, or $500. Other education highlights include the following:

* Fully funding post-secondary enrollment growth while recommending no tuition increase.

* $3.8 billion to continue reducing class size as required by the 2002 voter—approved Constitutional Amendment.

* $295 million to reward the top—performing 25 percent of teachers with a 10 percent salary bonus — double current funding levels.

* $137 million to add 400 reading coaches, a $26 million increase.

* $10 million for virtual tutors to help parents and teachers track children’s academic progress.

Governor Crist is also seeking legislation that would require all students in kindergarten through fifth grade to participate in at least 30 minutes of physical education every school day.
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