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Choosing Smokers Over Schools

January 12th, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Charlie Crist says he will look closely at budget cuts being made by lawmakers. The legislature ignored the Governors request to use 140 million from Indian gaming to offset school cuts. Lawmakers also hit trust funds, such as the Lawton Chiles Endowment harder than Crist would have liked. He wasnt advocating a cigarette tax hike, but others were. It was dismissed without debate, so we asked if lawmakers were putting smokers ahead of students.

I dont know that they did. Education is one of the most important things that we fund around here, Crist said. The reductions I recommended were less than what were looking at. Im going to look closely at that. Thank goodness, because of the Florida constitution, I have the opportunity to tweak some of these things. So well take a close look at that.

Some lawmakers say it is too late in the budget year to get any money from an increased cigarette tax, but if a dollar a pack levy were to have taken effect in April, it could have raised as much as 250 million dollars, or about half of the cuts being felt by public schools.

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