On April 28, the state legislature closed its regular session three days early, unable to come to an agreement on healthcare spending for the budget. A special session has been called for June 1 to June 20, during which the Senate and the House will attempt negotiations. With the budget currently left up in the air, however, New College’s operating budget planning has been put on hold.
Normally the legislature ends on May 1, allowing the school to draft a budget before the June 12 meeting with the Board of Trustees (BOT). With the hold-up, however, the school is left in limbo. Several major budget requests are on the table for New College in this legislative session: a $500,000 increase that will go to the Center for Engagement and Opportunity office, a $720,000 increase that will allow the school to hire more police officers and enhance the police radio system, and an allotment for construction for an addition to the Heiser natural sciences building. “We may still get a lot of stuff,” Vice President for Finance and Administration John Martin said.
There is also a possibility we will not. Although the House’s proposed budget grants the school those increases, the Senate has a $220,000 cut to the school’s operating budget. The special session will attempt to negotiate these numbers, and a final decision will not be published until June 20. Martin cautions that even after that point, Governor Rick Scott could still veto the proposed budget, extending the budget discussion into July.
“Technically, passing a balanced budget is the only thing the state legislature is required to do,” Martin said. But he is optimistic about the results of the special session. “When all is said and done, I think the college will be getting new money next year.”
In the meantime, the school has a contingency plan to tread water until an official budget is agreed upon. Rather than attempting to draft a budget without any sure numbers, the BOT will pass a continuation budget. The operating budget from this year will be used as a starting budget for July 1 onward. The BOT meets again in November to pass final changes to the budget, so “we’ll have until November to make all the changes,” Martin said.
Lawmakers and political observers are optimistic about this special session; Senator Bill Galvano of Bradenton County said in an interview with Sunshine State News that he thinks the special session will put people to work. “I don’t think we’ll need all those days. If we’re open minded and work together … we’ll be able to reach a resolution.”
The biggest hold-up between the House and Senate will be handling the massive discrepancies between their proposals for healthcare legislation. The session needs to resolve the question of whether they will expand healthcare to the uninsured, and how to handle a $2 billion deficit in funding for Florida hospitals for uninsured patients. Governor Scott also wants the budget to include $673 million in tax cuts, challenging the legislature to cut wherever they can.
Information for this article taken from www.sunshinestatenews.com and www.bradenton.com