Legislative leaders were close to hashing out a deal Saturday evening to provide record-level K-12 education funding next school year -- without forcing businesses and homeowners to shoulder hundreds of millions of dollars in extra funding through local property taxes.
The proposal is a gesture of significant compromise by the Florida House.
But by using a greater share of state dollars instead, the $458 million proposed increase for 2016-17 is far less than what Republican Gov. Rick Scott or House or Senate leaders had originally sought.
Scott's recommendation to the Legislature was for a $507 million increase, almost 90 percent of which would have come from property taxes that homeowners and businesses pay.
Both initial legislative budget plans mirrored Scott's funding formula, but Senate leaders have, for weeks, argued that increasing K-12 funding through the "required local effort" -- as Scott proposed -- would constitute a "tax increase."
Scott and some House members disagreed with that assertion, arguing that the tax rate wouldn't have changed. Even so, property tax bills would've gone up because property values have rebounded statewide.
On Saturday, House members -- led by education budget conference committee Chairman Rep. Erik Fresen -- shifted their tone.
"There was obviously a lot of concern by members of both parties as to how those funds were distributed," the Miami Republican said.
After re-analyzing their budget allocations, Fresen said he and committee Vice-Chairman Sen. Don Gaetz "made the policy decision overall to apply more general revenue ... (and) apply less of what could be considered -- whether construed properly or not -- as a property tax increase."