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Agencies Pitch 2013 Budget Requests

Governor Rick Scott has asked state agencies to plan for a five-percent budget  reduction. But some, like the Department of Education, are looking to get a financial boost next year. The Department controls the budgets for the state’s public schools, community and state colleges and voluntary pre-kindergarten programs.  The agency says the bulk of the funding increase would go to one particular area:

“As you can see the majority of this increase, $534.9 million, is in the K-12 area. $441.8 of that is for the technology modernization initiative," said DOE's Tracy Banner.

The Department of Education wants a $642 million increase. More than half of that will help fund digital classrooms. The state will have to purchase more iPads and tablets and increase schools’ internet capacity. Lawmakers may be reluctant to grant the request, but DOE’s digital push does have the support of Governor Rick Scott, who included the digital transition in his 2013 education agenda.

Meanwhile, Florida’s public universities want the state to restore a $300 million hit to their savings accounts. Lawmakers took the money earlier in the year but promised to put it back in 2013. The restoration of the funds is part of $3.2 billion funding request from the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the system. Board CFO Tim Jones says there are other areas the group would like to see funded as well:

“Some of the key  issues we’re requesting is $50 million dollars for critical deferred maintenance. There’s $200 million for student life facilities, there’s $100 million for the Courtelis matching grant program, and $20 million for debt services.” 

The single largest state budget item is healthcare. And the Agency for Healthcare Administration is the biggest spender, because it oversees Florida’s Medicaid program for low-income people. Lately it’s been trying to rein in costs by moving ahead with a plan to privatize. It wants $22 billion next year, which is a $240 million reduction. The agency is plans to scale back on some of the services it provides, like eliminating Medicaid coverage for adults who use chiropractic and podiatric care. It also wants to reduce the number of pregnant women on Medicaid and cut down on the Medically Needy program:

“And that means that coverage for the people in that Medically needy eligibility group, about 138 percent, would no longer be able to receive coverage from the Medicaid program," said AHCA budget director Anita Hicks.

Medically needy is for low-income people who don’t qualify for Medicaid, but can’t afford to purchase insurance on their own and have large medical bills. Hicks says the people who would be moved out of Medically needy, and “they would be expected to receive coverage in the health insurance exchange.”  

But Florida has refused to set up a health insurance exchange on its own, and that means the federal government would be on the hook for setting one up in its place as part of the federal healthcare overhaul.

Meanwhile, this upcoming fiscal year may be the time when the long-in-debt Agency for Persons with Disabilities, finally gets back into the black. The agency has been plagued with budget deficits due to cost overruns in a program that provides home and community services to people with disabilities. But Sharon Bradford, the agency’s chief financial officer, says that agency’s debt could be wiped clean if lawmakers put some extra money into the program:

“It’s $17 million and we do ask for that non-recurring appropriation to cover that cost. And with that, we do project that we’ll stay within our budget for probably the first time in the history of the agency,” Bradford said. 

Meanwhile the Department of Children and Families wants $21 million for new programs, and another five million for domestic violence and substance abuse treatment. But even with the program increases, the agency is planning for an $80 million  reduction which includes eliminating 52 positions.

For more news updates, follow Lynn Hatter on twitter @HatterLynn