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Democrats say budget shortchanges schools

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Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith, center, slammed the proposed budget on Wednesday during a press conference outside of the Capitol saying the spending plan shortchanges Florida's students.  [Scott Keeler, Times]

Democrats slammed the proposed budget on Wednesday, saying the spending plan shortchanges Florida's students.

"This budget, which is before the Legislature now, is an assault on education unlike anything we have seen in recent time," Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said.

Smith pointed out that the plan includes $300 million in cuts to higher education.

And while the budget boosts schools spending by $1 billion, it doesn't make up for the $1.3 billion in education cuts the previous year, he said.

Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach, raised another issue: no construction and maintenance money for traditional public schools. Charter schools are set to receive $55 million.

"If we really want to make the state move forward, what we have to do is invest in the future," Gibbons said. "Investing in education is investing in our future."

Democrats were also critical of "pet projects," like the creation of Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, a priority for outgoing Senate Budget Chairman JD Alexander. 

Smith urged Gov. Rick Scott to veto the budget.

"If he means what he said, that he is the education governor, now is the time to prove it," Smith said.

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