Of the myriad losers in a state budget that cuts a record $4 billion in spending, public education will lose the most -- with Miami-Dade and Broward schools getting hit hardest of all.
The two biggest counties together will shoulder more than a third of the $332 million in cuts to K-12 classroom spending in the proposed budget lawmakers will approve when the legislative session ends Friday.
Those school cuts are a fraction of the total slashed from education: $2.3 billion -- 55 percent of the total cuts -- which will reduce spending on everything from construction to class programs in kindergarten through graduate school.
But classrooms won't be the only ones feeling the pinch of a $66.2 billion budget that represents the largest one-year drop in state spending. In the next few months, Floridians will pay more for boat registration, driver licenses and court fees as well as drunken-driving fines and college tuition.
Meanwhile, reimbursements for hospitals and nursing homes are decreasing, as is money for foster care and financial aid for students at private colleges.
The biggest budget winner: prison builders. They'll get $305 million to build one private and two public lockups. By the end of the budget year on June 30, 2009, the prison population is anticipated to swell to 107,000.
''If you build them, they will come,'' fretted Sunrise Democrat Sen. Nan Rich. She said higher prison spending was tough to justify, even though the social-services budget she helps oversee had the lowest percentage decrease: 1.9 percent, or $451 million.
All in all, Florida's schools, colleges and universities had the biggest cut in dollars as well as share: 9.7 percent. As a result, K-12 construction spending is $10 million lower than prison construction.
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