JANUARY 31, 2008
CONTACT: GOVERNOR’S PRESS OFFICE
~ Fiscally disciplined $70-billion budget to ensure public safety, increase access to affordable health care~
TALLAHASSEE – Governor Charlie Crist and Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp today unveiled highlights of the Crist/Kottkamp Budget Recommendations for Fiscal Year 2008-09. Highlights of the proposed $70-billion budget include ensuring public safety for Floridians, using market-based strategies to provide health care coverage to Florida’s 3.8 million uninsured and providing incentives to spur economic development.
Today’s highlights expand Governor Crist’s previously announced plans to build Florida’s innovation economy and provide pre-K-12 education with a $1-billion increase over current spending. The Governor’s proposed budget preserves critical programs that protect and assist Florida’s most vulnerable citizens while maintaining fiscal discipline and strengthening key economic development programs.
“As a nation, we are facing extraordinary economic times. However, we can be certain that Florida’s brightest days are ahead of us,” Governor Crist said. “It is especially important – now more than ever – for government to spend the people’s money wisely and live within our means, just as Florida’s families do every day.”
Keeping Florida’s Economy Vibrant
Governor Crist’s $12.3-billion budget recommendation for economic development includes creating jobs through $8 billion in community and infrastructure funding, affordable housing, community planning, natural disaster mitigation, transportation, and arts, culture and libraries. To build Florida’s innovation economy and increase the Sunshine State’s competitive standing in the global marketplace, the Governor’s budget recommendations include more than $386 million in economic development incentives. The proposed budget includes $100 million to encourage investments in alternative energy as a targeted economic development industry, and $208.5 million to expand existing Florida businesses and attract new development in strong and growing economic sectors, including Florida’s film and entertainment industry.
Building on the landmark legislation passed last summer, voters approved Amendment 1 to the Florida Constitution on January 29. The amendment is estimated to save Floridians $9.3 billion in taxes during the first five years. To offset any potential impacts to fiscally constrained county governments, Governor Crist is recommending $26.2 million in recurring funds, beginning in July 2009. Governor Crist’s recommendations also proposes continuing Florida’s tradition of providing week-long sales tax holidays for hurricane preparedness supplies and back-to-school items that will save Floridians approximately $46 million in sales taxes.
Governor Crist’s $200-million energy and climate change package advances the policy framework initiated in three executive orders signed at the Serve to Preserve Climate Change Summit in July 2007. The Governor’s policies focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy efficiency and security, and positioning Florida as a hub of innovation to develop and commercialize green energy technologies.
Later this afternoon, Governor Crist will further discuss his energy and climate change budget priorities at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, where he will observe firsthand ocean energy research conducted by the university’s Center for Excellence. Governor Crist’s proposed budget includes $50 million for solar, wind and other renewable energy; $42.5 million to promote and develop biofuels in Florida; and $107.5 million to encourage and develop green industries and strengthen Florida’s economy.
Strengthening Florida’s Families
Through efforts of the Florida Department of Children and Families and its community-based care partners, the number of children in state foster care is steadily decreasing, and the number of adoptions is increasing. To maintain this trend, Governor Crist is recommending $14.9 million for additional adoption subsidies to allow more special needs children to have permanent adoptive families rather than remain in foster care. Additionally, Governor Crist is recommending $16.8 million to provide life skills training for young adults age 13 to 17 in foster care and independent living services for young adults age 18 to 23 who have transitioned out of foster care.
Governor Crist recommends $9.8 million to purchase “all-in-one” case management devices. These handheld devices will be used by child and adult protection investigators who are dispatched to homes in order to improve the quality of collected data and enhance caseworker performance and safety. Finally, Governor Crist recommends $3 million to fund capital improvement grants for certified domestic violence centers that will increase accessibility and safety for victims of domestic violence and improve efficiency of operations.
Keeping Floridians Healthy
Based on 2006 U.S. Census data,
Florida has the fourth highest number of uninsured
residents – 3.8 million people, or 21.2 percent of the state’s population. Governor Crist is actively seeking a comprehensive, market-based strategy that will provide affordable and accessible health care for Florida’s citizens. The Governor also seeks to create a greater safety net for all uninsured through partnerships between county health departments and primary care networks in 14 counties with the greatest need. Governor Crist recommends $63.9 million to make low-cost health insurance options available to Florida’s uninsured population. Additionally, Governor Crist recommends $21.8 million to increase reimbursement fees to dentists by an average of 20 percent.
In 2007, Governor Crist called for aggressive interagency efforts to contact families whose children may be uninsured, but may qualify for health care coverage through Florida KidCare, the state’s low-cost, high quality health insurance program for uninsured children under age 19. As a result, an additional 26,822 uninsured children under age 18 were enrolled in Florida KidCare Program. To further the Governor’s goal of providing as many Florida children as possible with access to quality, affordable health care, Governor Crist recommends $60.6 million to allow more than 46,000 additional children to be enrolled in KidCare.
Protecting Florida’s Natural Resources
In addition to investing $200 million in energy and climate change initiatives, Governor Crist proposes spending $300 million to protect and preserve Florida’s environment through Florida Forever, adding to the nearly 3.6 million acres of land already in conservation. The Governor also recommends $200 million to continue the nation’s largest environmental restoration project, which includes $50 million for the restoration of Lake Okeechobee, $50 million for its downstream coastal estuaries and $100 million to fully fund the state’s annual share of Everglades restoration.
As traditional water sources become overstressed and Southeastern states continue to experience extraordinary drought conditions, Governor Crist proposes $60 million for alternative water supply development to encourage investment in desalination and reclamation and reuse of storm or waste water. In addition, the Governor is recommending $25 million to protect water quality and develop water supplies in West Central Florida as well as $5 million for the continued implementation of the Florida Keys Wastewater Management Plan.
Protecting Our Communities
Governor Crist recommends a public safety budget of $5.2 billion, which includes $342.9 million for new prison beds needed in order for convicted criminals to serve the required 85 percent of their sentences. The Governor also recommends $28.8 million to significantly expand substance abuse treatment for inmates and probationers with the goal of preventing offenders from returning to a life of crime.
Governor Crist’s proposed budget includes $685.9 million to fund successful juvenile justice programs, including $2.6 million in funding for gender-specific programs, as recommended by the Blueprint Commission on Juvenile Justice. Also recommended is $2 million to ensure all juvenile detention centers are staffed with a full-time registered nurse. In response to the recommendations made by the statewide grand jury convened by the Florida Supreme Court at Governor Crist’s request, he proposes $3 million for grants to assist with prevention, enforcement and prosecution efforts to combat gang activity.
Governor Crist’s budget recommendations include additional staff to expand the successful Guardian ad Litem program and $482,000 to continue maintaining and improving the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Sexual Offender and Predator registration system.
Providing the Best Education in the Nation
Last week, Governor Crist released his $33.5 billion education budget, which provides funding for all phases of education, including $138 million to fully fund any K-12 reductions that would occur as a result of voter approval of Amendment 1. The Governor’s proposed budget would raise per-student funding 5.46 percent – or $394 per student, for a total of $7,606. The proposed budget also includes $467 million in bonuses for teachers who improve student achievement and sharpen their teaching skills through national peer review. Governor Crist also proposes funds for virtual tutors and additional reading coaches as well as incentive funds to encourage middle school physical education.
Governor Crist’s proposed higher education budget includes $5.42 billion for state universities and community colleges and calls for no tuition increase. The Governor recommends a $52-million increase for new student enrollment at Florida’s 11 state universities and $23 million for medical schools at Florida State University, Florida International University and University of Central Florida. He also plans a $56-million increase to community colleges’ annual budgets to help meet needs created by enrollment growth.
For additional details, visit www.myflorida.com and click on “The People’s Budget.”
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