Bay of Pigs Museum, Disney Transit Line Among $70 Billion Budget Plans

Mar 9, 2012

The following article was published in The Sunshine State News on March 9, 2012:

Bay of Pigs Museum, Disney Transit Line Among $70 Billion Budget Plans

By Jim Turner

Legislators are expected to cast the final votes on the $70.4 billion budget for the next fiscal year on Friday afternoon.

The 423-page plan, which includes an increase in school spending, money for a museum highlighting the Bay of Pigs invasion and an airport-to-Disney World transit line, is an increase from the $69.2 billion budget for the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, called the work a “Herculean effort.”

View the budget plan here.

The payroll would further trim the state’s budget by paying for 117,881 employees, down from 122,235 in the current year.

Pre-K-12 education would see an $843.9 million increase, a significant boost but not the full $1 billion requested by Gov. Rick Scott. The total increases per-student funding from $6,224 to $6,375.

Charter schools would collectively receive $55 million toward construction costs.

Another Scott priority, funding for restoration of the Florida Everglades, landed $30 million, which was $10 million less than requested by the governor. Meanwhile, the Florida Forever land-buying program is designated to receive $8.7 million, half of Scott’s requested total.

The budget for the state’s operations of Medicaid went unchanged from the current year, with $22.3 billion in funding. At the same time, funding for state hospitals is going to drop 5.6 percent.

Visit Florida, the state’s tourism arm highlighting Florida for the state’s 500th anniversary next year, Viva Florida, is in line to receive $54 million, up from $35 million.

While Florida TaxWatch wasn’t ready to comment on the budget Thursday, the fiscal plan features a marked departure from the past few years with numerous single-line expenditures that are expected to be among the Tallahassee-based watchdog outfit’s annual list of “turkeys.”

Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, agreed that many may not be appropriate in the current economy, but noted that earmarks can be “an investment” to attract jobs, “like incentive packages that bring corporations here.”

The budget includes more than $11 million items listed as cultural grants:

  • $500,000: Florida Aquarium.
  • $25,000: Firehouse Cultural Center — LaBelle.
  • $150,000: Spence Lanier Pioneer Enrichment Center.
  • $50,000: Lake Wales Arts Council.
  • $100,000: Family Empowerment and Intervention — North Miami.
  • $75,000: Haitian Heritage Museum Project.
  • $500,000: Bay of Pigs Museum, Miami.
  • $250,000: Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida.
  • $300,000: Heritage Trail Network Black History House — Tallahassee.
  • $500,000: Straz Center Renovations Project, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center Inc. (Hillsborough County)
  • $500,000: Dunedin Fine Art Center Multi-Phase Construction Project, Phase 2 (Pinellas County).
  • $99,822: Accessibility Enhancement and Facility Improvements, Hippodrome State Theater Inc. (Alachua County)
  • $650,000: Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center Restoration, Florida Arts Inc. (Lee County)
  • $36,000: Children’s Museum Boardwalk, The Children’s Museum Inc. (Palm Beach County)
  • $445,000: Mound House: History from the Ground Up, Town of Fort Myers Beach (Lee County).
  • $300,000: Atrium for All Seasons, Philharmonic Center for the Arts Inc. (Collier County)
  • $500,000: The New Elliott Museum, Historical Society of Martin County Inc.
  • $100,000: Renovation of the Original Galleries, Museum of Fine Arts of St. Petersburg, Florida, Inc. (Pinellas County)
  • $500,000: Veterinary Hospital and Animal Conservation and Science Center at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo (Hillsborough County).
  • $350,000: Hotel Ponce de Leon Solarium — Flagler College, St. Augustine (St. Johns County).

The state’s transit plan would also set aside $1.2 million for a transit line to link Orlando International Airport and Disney World, and $1.118 million to prepare the Orlando Executive Airport for the National Business Aviation Association Convention.

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