Florida lawmakers are doing something they haven't done in years: adding money to state programs.
The recession sent the state into multi-billion-dollar budget shortfalls that led to big cuts in education and state government payrolls.
But this year, lawmakers have money to play with. Gov. Rick Scott has proposed a budget of more than $74 billion for the fiscal year that starts in July. That's about a $4-billion increase in spending over the current year.
So where did the extra money come from?
In his State of the State address last month, Scott credited two years of cutting taxes and red tape so businesses could grow.
“Because we made the hard choices over the last two years, we are able to make the smart choices now to keep our economy growing,” Scott said. “We have a projected budget surplus for the first time in six years.”
As the House budget chief, Lakeland Republican Rep. Seth McKeel will be a key player in crafting the state budget. He began his tenure as a lawmaker in 2006, as the economy was starting its descent.
“We have had to make unfortunate reductions over the last five years in important areas like transportation, education and public safety when we didn't have enough funds,” McKeel said. “We actually had some scenarios where we had to make up (for) budget deficits.”
Of course, the reasons for this turnaround in the state's finances vary depending on who you ask.