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Crist proposes spending $1.1 billion in trust fund cash

Gov. Charlie Crist recommends the Legislature balance the budget by relying on once untouchable trust fund accounts to pay for general needs. He wants to pull $400 million out of the Lawton Chiles Endowment, the tobacco lawsuit trust fund intended for health care needs, and wants to spend $740 million from other reserved accounts, intended for workers compensation and insurance regulation to balance his proposed $70 billion budget, he announced today.

The more than two consecutive years in revenue declines "represent an historic challenge that this administration is facing,'' Crist said. He predicted the economy will improve however and give Florda added revenues in the future to replenish the trust funds.

Crist repeated his recommendation that the legislature replenish the $100 million in lost school district revenues because of the property tax amendment approved by voters on Tuesday. He also wants to continue the back-to-school and hurricane preparedness sales tax holidays. Download crist_2008_budget.pdf  Download governor_crist_announces_priorities_for_200809_budget.htm

Sen. Lisa Carlton, Senate Appropriations chairman, said the Senate will reivew his budget recommendations but stopped short of embracing any of his priorities. She also noted that the governor is working on revenue estimates that will be outdated in a couple of weeks, thereby raising more questions about how solid his proposals will be.

"There are many pieces of information that the Senate will use to build a budget this year -- the most significant will be the next revenue estimating conference numbers,'' she said in a statement. "Make no mistake; this is going to be a very challenging budget year."

She added: "It is critical that we approach our work with a long-term view, keeping a keen eye on the condition of our economy in Florida and nationally.''