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College projects come up short in Scott budget

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Gov. Rick Scott's proposed $83.5 billion state budget falls short of the construction and maintenance funding being requested by state universities and colleges for the coming year.

At the university level, Scott on Tuesday recommended $41 million in construction projects and $53.9 million in maintenance and renovation funds.

The university system's Board of Governors last week approved a request for $65 million in construction projects and $60 million in maintenance funds for the 12 state universities.

Scott proposed $20.5 million in construction funding for the 28 state colleges, which have advanced a $54.5 million construction list. Scott also recommended $36 million in maintenance funding for the state colleges.

For the university and college construction projects, Scott linked the state funding to a one-to-one match in local funding.

In the K-12 system, Scott recommended $150 million in maintenance funding in Public Education Capital Outlay, or PECO, with public schools receiving $75 million and charter schools $75 million.

The construction funding requests from the state universities and colleges only reflect a portion of what the higher-education leaders believe their systems need.

In addition to its "primary" $125 million PECO list, the university system is also recommending a $283.5 million "supplemental" list of projects.

The state colleges' $54.5 million initial request is part of a three-year estimate of more than $166 million in construction needs for the system.

PECO funding could be boosted in the next year if lawmakers and Scott agree to borrow money for the program.

This year, PECO funding reached $625 million by using $275 million in bonds.

However, Scott's 2017-18 budget proposal does not have any PECO bonding and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, said Tuesday he is opposed to borrowing for the program.

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said he is open to the use of bonds.

“I think we should do reasonable, measured, cautious bonding,” he said.