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Gov. Rick Scott's K-12 budget called 'smoke and mirrors'

For a Republican-controlled Legislature that voted to increase taxes and fees by $2 billion two years ago, the bipartisan boos over Gov. Rick Scott's proposed spending cuts might not be too surprising.

But the teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing continued this morning as a panel of Senate K-12 budget writers took their turn picking apart Scott's proposal to spend 10 percent less on public school students this year.

Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, cast doubt on Scott's suggestion to plug some of the hole with stimulus money districts were given to spend for the current school year. "I just don't think that's as straight an arrow as I would expect," said Lynn, chairwoman of the Republican Senate Conference. "I look at it as a little smoke and mirrors."

"Regifting," Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, interrupted.

"It seems a little bit improper," Lynn said.

Chairman David Simmons, R-Maitland, said some districts, including Broward - the state's second largest district, had already spent the money. Simmons said he's awaiting a report on all the districts.

"We'll have a better idea about whether this is real or not," Simmons said.

The reality no one is arguing with so far is that, with or without Scott's recommendation, lawmakers will have to plug a tax shortfall of at least $3.6 billion in the upcoming budget. Simmons has indicated that a cut to school spending is possible, if not likely.

Simmons closed the meeting by asking his committee members to individually speak with him in private about their ideas on how to address the budget problems.

"I look forward to hearing from you about what you think we should be doing," Simmons said to the committee. "That's going to be a tough call for each of you, each of us."