Crist proposes $70B state budget


Gov. Charlie Crist adjusts charts that show the highlights of his budget recommendations for the upcoming fiscal year at a news conference, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008, in Tallahassee, Fla.

The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 3:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 3:03 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Bracing for the weakening economy, Gov. Charlie Crist proposed a $70 billion state budget Thursday that seeks to boost spending on programs to stimulate business and counts on reserves and gambling money to get through the tough times.

Despite bad projections for incoming taxes, Crist proposed more spending on health insurance for children, and several programs to move the state toward energy diversity. The budget for the next fiscal year also includes more money for unspecified help for adults without health insurance.

To make the spending plan work with less tax money coming in, Crist relies heavily on $1.1 billion in reserves, including diverting $400 million from the Lawton Chiles endowment fund, which is made up of money from the state's 1998 settlement with tobacco companies. Crist said he spoke to Gov. Chiles' widow, Rhea Chiles, and received her blessing to tap into the account to shore up the budget.

The budget also relies on money from the state's recent deal with the Seminole Indians for some casino revenues. The budget includes $130 million from the compact, even though it is the subject of ongoing litigation.

The proposal also includes about $400 million from Lottery "game enhancements," which are expected to increase income from lottery ticket sales, although Crist wasn't specific about how that would work.

The proposal would also continue the sales tax holidays on back-to-school items and hurricane preparedness purchases.

The plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 goes to the Legislature, which writes the budget, often using the governor's proposal as a template. Crist has veto power over the budget items the Legislature eventually includes.

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