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Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants to use property taxes to put more money in schools

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Relying on continued growth in property values around the state, Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday proposed increasing the amount of money for the state's public schools.

Scott, who promised during his heated re-election campaign to increase school spending to historic levels, said he wants the average amount spent on each student to rise to $7,176, about $261 higher than was allocated this school year.

That would push the average amount to $50 higher than it was in 2007, or before the collapse of the state's economy resulted in several years of budget cuts, culminating in a $1.3 billion cut during Scott's first year in office.

"These record investments will continue to equip our students for the jobs of tomorrow, and help us on our path to be the number one destination for jobs," Scott said in a statement.

Scott announced his budget recommendation during a morning visit to a technical center in Coconut Creek.

If approved by legislators during the annual session that starts in March, the increase would raise overall public school spending to nearly $20 billion. That would be the highest overall amount spent without adjusting for inflation.

When Scott's per-student funding is adjusted for inflation, however, it is $940 less than the 2007 amounts, according to a calculating formula used by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Sen. Tom Lee, a Brandon Republican in charge of the main budget committee in the Florida Senate, said the recommendation was not a surprise, given that Scott repeated it constantly on the campaign trail. Scott made the pledge at a time when his Democratic rival, former Gov. Charlie Crist, hammered the incumbent over cuts to school funding. Crist had pledged to restore funding to pre-recession levels.

Lee said it was too early to say whether legislators would endorse the recommendation, although he added "we certainly want to help the governor keep his campaign promises."

The pledge for increased money for schools was praised by the Florida Education Association, the state's teachers union.

But the Florida Democratic Party said Scott was misleading Floridians because his recommendations would still fall short after being adjusted for inflation.

"When he needed their votes for re-election, Rick Scott promised Floridians record spending on education. But now he's failed to deliver, and he's doing what he does best: lying to the people of Florida," said Democratic party spokesman Max Steele in an email.

The governor's office did not release full details of his proposal, but the numbers released by the governor's office indicate that more than half of the proposed $842 million increase would come from local property taxes.

A spokeswoman for Scott stressed that the governor would not recommend an increase in the property-tax rate charged by local school districts.

During his inaugural address, Scott warned against letting government expand and pledged to cut taxes by $1 billion over the next two years.


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