Legislative appropriations committees have begun analyzing Gov. Crist's proposed $69.2-billion state budget for fiscal year 2010 – 2011. The governor's budget, which is $2.7 billion higher than the state's 2009 – 2010 budget, proposes increased education spending, a cut in the corporate tax rate, a revival of the back-to-school sales tax holiday, and no increases in college and university tuition. The budget proposal supports the additional expenditures by assuming among other things, that Florida will receive $1.2 billion in new federal stimulus funding for Medicaid, that the state will receive $433 million from revenues under a potential Seminole Indian gaming compact, and that $585 million will be “swept” from various state trust funds and the Lawton Chiles Endowment. Legislative reaction to the governor's budget was not positive. When Office of Policy and Budget Director Jerry McDaniel appeared before the House Appropriations Council on Education and Economic Development on February 2, 2010, Rep. Denise Grimsley (R-Lake Placid) told him, “There's nothing here I can use.” Rep. Grimsley chairs the House Health Care Appropriations Committee, which has the task of funding a Medicaid shortfall currently estimated at $1.8 billion.
Council Chair David Rivera (R-Miami), the House's chief budget writer, was one of several members who questioned the decision to reduce the state's reserves to $250 million and its potential impact on bond ratings. He asked Mr. McDaniel, “Do you think the governor would be comfortable with this low level of reserves if he were going to be around for another four years as governor?”
Mr. McDaniel told the council members that he recognized the legislative concerns about the budget assumptions, but “we're going to stick with the budget recommendation we have now.” He added that Gov. Crist would return with a revised budget, probably late in the legislative session, if the assumptions behind the $69.2-billion spending plan prove to be unrealistic.
The governor's plan also came under criticism the following day when Mr. McDaniel testified before the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. Committee Chair JD Alexander (R-Lake Worth), while praising Gov. Crist's “aspirations,” said that “we're asking our committees to look at a more austere budget than the one presented today.”