Special Session Legislative Update #4 June 23, 2015

From Jennifer Proffitt, UFF President:


Almost two months after the 2015 regular session broke down over Medicaid expansion, the Florida Legislature concluded its special session Friday at about 6:50pm. Legislators returned to Tallahassee to complete their sole required constitutional duty: to pass a balanced budget. The budget adopted totals $78.698 billion dollars, which is $1.625 billion more than current year spending.

Florida’s 28 community colleges and state colleges will share approximately $2 billion. Of that, $937 million came from General Revenue, $244.9 million from the lottery, and $840.7 million came from tuition and fees.

The conference report shows about $4.5 billion for 12 of Florida’s public universities. Some $2.4 billion came from General Revenue, $278.6 million came from trust funds (mainly the lottery), and $1.9 billion came from tuition and fees.

The total funding levels were comparable to the current fiscal year and there was no increase in tuition and fees.

Lawmakers also included $400 million for performance-based funding for universities and $40 million for colleges. That doubles the pot of money for universities and marks the first year for colleges (more information below). The University of Florida and Florida State University were awarded an additional $5 million each for preeminence as well.

Sen. Joe Negron’s (R-Stuart) plan to cap bachelor’s degrees at Florida colleges was initially included but was removed during budget negotiations.

The budget has been sent to the Governor, who has the authority to make line item vetoes.

He has until Saturday, July 4, 2015, to review and approve or veto items contained in the budget and may act sooner since the end of the fiscal year is June 30th.

We will continue to analyze the bills and any coming actions by the Governor. Included in this ongoing review are the many college and university projects and PECO items. We will forward more information after the governor takes action.

HB 33A has already been signed by the Governor and is a roughly $400 million package of tax cuts, including a 1.73 percent reduction to the state’s tax on communications services. In addition to the CST cut, the bill provides a tax exemption for college textbooks and provides for a 10 day back to school tax holiday starting Aug. 7, 2015. In addition to these bigger cuts, the bill also includes several other cuts or and breaks, including a tax exemption for aviation fuel used for flight training purposes by certain educational institutions.


State University System

Each university contributed a portion of their institutional budget, for a total of $250 million of the $400 million. The other $150 million came from the state. At last week’s Board of Governors meeting in Tampa, the Florida Board of Governors approved its plan for spending the $400 million in performance funding, which the legislature approved.

The University of Florida received the highest total performance funding allocation with $77 million. The University of South Florida came in second with $58.8 million and the University of Central Florida was a close third with $57.7 million.

New College of Florida and Florida A&M University did not receive new state funds for having the lowest performance under the system’s metrics. Both universities scored at or above 26 points on the measures, so their full institutional funding for next year was restored.

The BOG also approved returning the remaining base funding lost last year by Florida Atlantic University, New College and the University of West Florida after the three schools presented final improvement plans to the BOG. The first half was given back to each university in January 2015. FAU got its remaining $3.5 million back in addition to the $11.3 million in new state money and $18.9 million restored in the 2015-16 fiscal year. New College got $540,000 back. The University of West Florida got its remaining $1.9 million in addition to $5.9 million from the state and $9.7 million restored for the next fiscal year.

Performance funding policy continues to be a critical issue where UFF must continue to engage for both the SUS and Florida College System.

Florida College System

The agreement for the Florida Colleges performance funding is $40,000,000, which includes $20,000,000 new funding and $20,000,000 redistributed from the base. The performance funding model for colleges is expected to be approved by the State Board of Education by September 1, 2015.

According to the language in the proviso, the approved model “must be based on a modified version of the performance funding model submitted by the Commissioner in her letter of January 23, 2015, which shall be limited to measures addressing the following areas: Job Placement, Program Completion and Graduation Rates, Retention Rates, and Completer Entry Level Wages.” 


HB 21-A, which would have made dramatic changes to the state group health insurance plan, potentially increasing out of pocket expenses, was not heard by the Senate. This issue, which has been pursued by current House Appropriations Chair and future House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Lutz), was part of a package of controversial health care issues included in the Special Session Call.

Fortunately, Senate leaders weren’t interested in pursuing these issues in the hectic, truncated Special Session. The bill had been referenced to the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, and its Chairman, Jeremy Ring (D-Tamarac), stated, “We’re not going to meet on that bill because it needs to be vetted more.”

Similarly, Senator Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach), chair of the Senate Committee on Health Policy and author of the health care expansion plan using Federal funds (FHIX Plan) that was at the center of the Regular Session’s impasse and eventual implosion, canceled his committee’s final meeting and instead proposed a Joint House and Senate Task Force on Health Care Policy Innovation to meet before the 2016 regular session, which begins in January.

We expect to see these state group health insurance plan changes in the next session and will keep you informed.