Thursday Florida Governor Rick Scott announced his 2013 budget, which at $74 billion is the largest one ever proposed in the history of the state.
The increase in spending is a change in tune for the Governor whose 2010 platform was based on busting up Florida's "big" government.
Dubbed Florida Families First, his budget includes raises for teachers and state workers, more money for state universities, expansions in healthcare and disabled services, and tax incentives for businesses.
See his full budget proposal here.
Ironically, however, his increases are in the very same areas that his past budgets sliced and diced with extreme funding cuts -- e.g. $300 million in state universities just last year.
Critics see the budget as "re-election gimmicks" for a governor whose approval rating hovered as low as 36 percent in December.
"His proposal, for example, to raise teachers’ salaries by $2,500 doesn’t match two years of taxing 3 percent annually from their average $45,700 salary," Sen. Chris Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale) said. "And no number of teachers gathered as props in a press conference can change those facts."
And while Democrats are wary of Scott's sudden change of heart, Republicans are miffed as well.
“Right now, our budget shows that we don’t have $1.2 billion in surplus,” Rep. Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel), the state’s new House speaker, said on Wednesday, referring to the proposed increase public education funding.
So where will the money come from?
Scott will shut down driver's license offices in eight cities, freeing up $972,153 and losing 39 full-time positions, reports the Orlando Sentinel.
Tampa Bay Times reports he will also freeze state workers' salaries for the seventh year, pull $9 million in savings from county health clinics, cut Medicaid services and payments to hospitals, and eliminate 3,600 state jobs.
He would also spend no extra on mental health services -- particularly worrisome in light of the psychological troubles of the shooters in recent mass shootings in Aurora and Newtown.
Scott's 2013 budget does break records. However, as The Florida Times Union points out, when considered next to the state's growing population, it only spends $2,754 per resident, the third-lowest number since 2000.
While "Florida Families First" does pay for some of the mandatory increases in health services as outlined by the Affordable Care Act, it does not address the expansion that would give Medicaid to 900,000 more Floridians.
Scott holds that households making more than $11,000 a year are wealthy enough to buy their own health coverage.
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