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Saturday November 1st 2014

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Scott proposes $30 million to train workforce in STEM fields

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By Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida

Workforce training in science and technology fields would get $30 million from Gov. Rick Scott in the latest snapshot of his upcoming legislative budget request.

Scott, who is to roll out his entire 2014-15 “It’s Your Money Tax Cut” budget proposal next week, was at convenience food maker Greencore USA, a growing company in Jacksonville, on Thursday to tout the new training initiative, focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations.

“With these dollars, we will provide access to training resources for both job seekers and employers, while also providing scholarships to Floridians wishing to pursue STEM and other great careers at Florida’s state colleges and vocational centers,” Scott said in a release.

The money would be in addition to the $12 million expected to again be sought for the Quick Response Training Program that helps with training for new or expanding businesses, according to the governor’s office.

In November, the Department of Economic Opportunity included $12 million for the Quick Response Training Program as part of its budget request.

During the budget year that ended June 30, the Quick Response Training Program handed out $8.5 million in grants that were intended to be used to train 6,522 employees, including 4,518 anticipated to be new jobs, according to Workforce Florida.

Scott will outline his entire budget proposal Wednesday, during the annual Associated Press meeting at the Capitol in advance of the legislative session.

Already, Scott has laid out almost $12 billion from the pending spending plan, including $493.2 million in funding for new endeavors. His proposed budget should be around $70 billion. He has also pitched approximately $461 million in cuts to taxes and fees.

Scott has challenged lawmakers to approve $500 million in tax and fee cuts.

It will be up to state legislators to craft the final budget package, and a number of counter-proposals have already been made to some of Scott’s water-related requests.

Scott highlighted $130 million to improve the quality and flow of water in the Florida Everglades and Lake Okeechobee on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Scott promoted his intention to seek $55 million to protect and maintain the state’s natural springs, up from $10 million in the current budget.

The Senate is looking at a $220 million package intended to improve water quality in South Florida waterways, while a $380 million springs protection package is being drafted. The House is considering a statewide water package that is to include aspects of both Senate plans.

Other budget highlights that Scott has announced include: $200 million to increase in the state’s Department of Transportation budget to $8.8 billion; a $35 million increase for Visit Florida to $100 million; a nearly $40 million increase to the Department of Children and Families bringing that agency’s budget to $2.855 billion; and $3.2 million to train law enforcement officers.

A big factor in any of the spending proposals will be the economy.

State economists, expected to revisit the outlook after the session begins in March, have currently projected a surplus of around $1 billion for the 2014-15 fiscal year.