Florida's Legislature set the table for a confrontation with Gov. Rick Scott with a record-setting $82.3 billion state budget blueprint that rejects his priorities. Set for a final vote Friday before the House and Senate adjourn this regular session, most House Democrats are expressing agreement with the largely Republican-crafted spending plan. That bipartisanship should give the governor pause with his veto power since they could face override votes.
The proposed budget has much to like.
Per-student spending will increase by 1 percent, up $458 million for a total of $20.2 billion. But lawmakers did not follow Scott's plan to fund that increase by raising local property taxes, as has been past practice.
Instead, those taxes will be reduced and state revenue will be spent -- by slashing into the governor's proposal for $1 billion in tax cuts for businesses. Property owners finally get a break in this significant policy shift.
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The state university system scored big, with an extra $500 million earmarked for institutional performance on 12 benchmarks. This should create a competitive atmosphere and drive progress.
Florida hospitals will divvy up $608 million in federal and local tax revenue to cover some of the expenses for charity health care.
That follows steep drops the past two years; the federal government gave Florida $2 billion in 2014-2015 and $1 billion in this fiscal year for the Low Income Pool program of partial reimbursements. LIP is being phased out.
But Manatee Memorial Hospital came out a big winner with an increase in LIP funding from $6.7 million in fiscal 2015-2016 to some $13.2 million next year, a big coup for the hospital.
As the county's safety-net hospital, Manatee Memorial performs the lion's share of charity care. The higher figure matches previous allocations after a steep reduction last year.
Blake Medical Center took a major hit, from $917,800 to $62,000 next year under a new tiered formula.
The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Lakewood Ranch is poised to receive $1.7 million to support Florida students enrolled in either the osteopathic medicine or pharmacy programs.
One of the last-minute allocations serves some of neediest residents -- $25 million to trim the waiting lists for services at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. There shouldn't be any such lists for these invaluable services.
Another budget item that popped up Monday features $49 million for the controversial performance-based bonus program for teachers, called the Best and Brightest. Teachers who meet certain benchmarks on their own SAT or ACT tests are eligible for bonuses up to $10,000.
The argument against this idea -- that standardized tests don't reflect classroom performance -- fell by the wayside. Still, this metric does measure academic success.
Spending on cultural and museum grants rose significantly, from almost $13 million in 2015-2016 to $19 million next year. The state should support the arts as an important economic development tool that improves communities and attracts business and visitors.
This session is quite an improvement over last year's bitter infighting, the failure to pass a budget on time and special sessions to clean up various messes.
With all 120 House seats and 40 Senate posts up for election during a presidential election year, when voters turn out in higher numbers, the chambers certainly worked together -- even with some bipartisanship -- proving to the electorate that civility is not an endangered species.
Last year, Scott vetoed a record $461.4 million in line-item spending. With his agenda shredded, his wrath could set a new record.