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House passes budget 75-43, sine die to come

Closing the books on the 2009 legislative session, the House just approved the state's $66.5 billion budget by a 75-43 vote. It was a strict party line vote, with one Democrat (Kelly Skidmore) and one Republican (Ed Homan) not voting.

The House also voted 85-30 to raise the state's cigarette tax $1 a pack, with bill presenter Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, in the nay camp. And the to-the-wire gambling bill was approved 82-35.

Debate over two days had Republicans touting an education budget that increases per-student spending and Democrats attacking millions of dollars in new fees affecting practically all Floridians. 

"I find it troubling that the Republican Party, which touts fiscal conservatism and family values, has crafted a state budget that is held together by smokers and gamblers," said Democratic leader Franklin Sands of Weston.

Said Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland: "We made priority choices and in doing so, we have funded every single thing that was asked in regards to this budget."

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