Scott proposes $87.4 billion budget

Lee Herald Favicon 16Governor Rick Scott unveiled an $87.4 billion budget proposal for next year, in his final year as Florida’s top executive on Tuesday.

Portions of the proposal have been coming out bit by bit over the last two weeks, including a $180 million tax cut plan which includes multiple sales tax holidays for disaster preparedness and back-to-school and reducing driver’s license fees and nearly $4 billion in funding for environmental projects.

Scott, who is widely rumored to be running for U.S. Senate in 2018, terms out of the governor’s office at the end of 2018. In a news conference in Jacksonville on Tuesday, he promoted several of what he believed were his key accomplishments while in office, seemingly with an eye toward an election year.

“Since I took office, I have been proud to work with the Florida Legislature to cut taxes 75 times saving Floridians more than $7.5 billion,” Scott said. “Together, we have paid down $9 billion in state debt and made government more efficient to save even more taxpayer money. These accomplishments have helped secure future success and prosperity, and have made it possible for more than 1.3 million Floridians to find a job so they can support their families.”

“Our Securing Florida’s Future budget advances Florida’s record of success and represents years of fighting to do what’s right for Florida families and I will keep fighting every day to secure Florida’s future for every Florida family.”

Among the new highlights in the unveiled budget on Tuesday included $1 billion in mental health and substance abuse funding. Scott had previously proposed $53 million for fighting opioid abuse.

The budget also proposes $7,497 per student in K-12 funding, along with increases in higher education funding including holding tuition constant. The proposal continues to push for three-term funding with Bright Futures scholarships.

The hallmark of the budget is the $3.8 billion for environmental projects. Scott proposed $50 million in funds to speed up completion of the Herbert Hoover Dike as part of a $355 million package for Everglades Restoration, and $50 million for Florida Forever. It also includes $21 million in aid for the state’s citrus industry, reeling after the impacts of Hurricane Irma.

Unlike past years, the tax cut packages that Scott is pushing for are relatively tame. The proposal calls for three one week sales tax holidays for disaster preparedness in May, June, and July, and a 10-day sales tax holiday for back to school, and a reduction of the cost of renewing driver licenses from $48 to $20.

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