A proposal to increase education funding by more than $1 billion in the coming fiscal year was met with tepid reviews from some Southwest Florida legislators.
Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday he plans to propose a $1.2 billion boost in education funding today when he unveils his budget for the coming fiscal year.
Speaking to the annual Associated Press Legislative Planning Session, Scott said he plans to ask lawmakers to increase spending on public schools by around 6.5 percent, to about $6,800 per student.
The announcement comes about a week after Scott floated a $2,500-a-year raise for all Florida teachers; that $480 billion would be included in the $1.2 billion increase for education.
If approved, this would mark the second consecutive year that Scott asked for — and the Legislature approved — an increase in education funding of about $1 billion.
"I believe the governor's budget proposal reflects his priorities for Florida," state Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, said in a message to the Daily News on Wednesday. "Having said that ... we need to determine where the money will come from as we craft a budget to return to the governor."
The most recent forecast by state economists estimated the state would will have a surplus of about $829 million in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, said that surplus makes it more likely Scott will get more money for education again this year. But she said even though the state will have additional funds, "the big issue is how to allocate them."
"The governor's focus is on jobs and education and I think the Legislature is in sync with that," she said.
Passidomo said the state may have to make cuts, streamline or move money from other areas to fund the increase.
The state Legislature in 2011 cut $1.3 billion from the state's education budget. The following year, Scott requested, and received, an increase of about $1 billion in education funding.
That increase though, Passidomo said, came at the expense of the state's higher education budget, something she doesn't know if the state can continue doing.
Scott plans to more clearly spell out how he will provide money for the education increase in his full budget proposal, set to be unveiled today.
"We made the hard choices to recover and get back on track," Scott said. "Now we must make the smart choices to invest in Florida's future."
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.