Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bush to Unveil Tighter Budget Soaring Costs Eat Revenue

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bush to Unveil Tighter Budget Soaring Costs Eat Revenue

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE -- Budgeting was easier in Gov. Jeb Bush's first two years.

The state had billions in extra cash generated by a super-heated economy and bonanzas from the state's settlement with the tobacco industry and a reduction in pension costs.

But when he releases his third budget proposal today, Bush will have to show how he can come up with money to pay for his initiatives in education, elder care and the environment.

This year's $1.9 billion in revenue growth will be largely consumed by soaring costs in medical programs for the poor and tax-relief programs that the state is committed to.

Medicaid has grown exponentially primarily due to prescription drug costs, which Bush has tried to reduce in the past with only limited success.

But Bush said yesterday the tighter budget has helped spur efforts to trim costs in state government. He said he is "challenging the holy base" of the budget as he tries to save money.

"This creates a problem for some, an opportunity for others," Bush said during a meeting of newspaper editors and reporters in Tallahassee.

The budget will be available on the Internet at 9 a.m. To see it, log on to Jacksonville.com. Bush's staff said it was designed in an easy-to-read format that should enable citizens to find items they are looking for.

The Legislature will pass the final version of the budget near the end of its upcoming session, in late April or early May.

Though he offered few specifics yesterday, Bush said he will propose measures such as restricting state employees' travel, reducing the costs of foster care, cutting longstanding pet projects of legislators and calling for pharmaceutical companies to give larger price rebates to the state.

Bush also is expected to recommend more than $300 million in tax cuts, including continuing the phaseout of the intangibles tax and the drink tax and retaining the popular sales-tax holiday for clothing at the end of the summer. …

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