BRADENTON, Fla. — Florida lawmakers shortly before midnight Monday reached a compromise on a $70 billion budget for 2011, an increase of $3.5 billion over the current year.
The spending plan relies on funds from a recently passed Indian gaming compact, more than $2 billion in federal stimulus funding allocated for use in fiscal 2011, and $600 million from children’s health programs. It also dips into reserves of the state Department of Transportation and other agencies for a second year.
It is a major election year in Florida so lawmakers did not increase taxes, while managing to slightly increase per-student school spending.
While they did not order layoffs, state workers will not receive raises for the fifth year in a row.
And for the first time, lawmakers and some higher paid state employees will be required to contribute toward health insurance costs.
The House, which hosted budget negotiations this year, approached the budget with four principles, including no new taxes, no cuts in the primary education budget, and keeping sufficient reserves to maintain Florida’s triple-A bond rating.
The budget also did not use federal funds contemplated but not yet approved by Congress, according to House Speaker Larry Cretul.
“With the cooperation of our Senate partners, we met those four principles during this exceptionally challenging budget session,” Cretul said in a statement. “As a result, Florida is well-poised for job creation and the return to a more prosperous economy.”
But the budget comes at a cost to state health programs. Lawmakers cut 7% from reimbursement payments to hospitals and nursing homes, and reduced other health programs.
However, they appropriated $50 million for the financially ailing public hospital system in Miami-Dade County. The allocation, though, is contingent on the county submitting a management review plan, overseeing the system’s financial condition, and implementing a cost-containment plan.
In the past few months, the Public Health Trust appointees who oversee the system, which includes Jackson Memorial Hospital, have said it faces a deficit up to $230 million because of improperly classified expenses, bad debt not written off over several years, problems converting to a new accounting system, and rising expenses due to the recession.
The financial problems caused the Securities and Exchange Commission recently to open an investigation into bonds sold by Miami-Dade on behalf of the health system last year.
Legislative staff said yesterday that the amount of bonding authorized by the budget was not immediately available.
The final budget conference report was still being prepared at press time, but it was expected to be sent to the full House and Senate yesterday in order to meet a required 72-hour review period so a final vote could be taken on Friday, the last day of the session.