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Budget funds UF Health, soccer, spaceport, ferry

Improvements to EverBank Field not funded by Florida Legislature

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Northeast Florida fared well in the $78.7 million budget passed Friday evening by the Florida Legislature, but at least one high-profile project won't be funding next year.

While the budget is still waiting for the Gov. Rick Scott's review -- and he can line-item veto any spending item -- the Legislature's spending plan provides $97 million for UF Health Jacksonville to fund uninsured patients, $5 million for a youth and profession soccer complex, $1.5 million in funding for developing a spaceport at Cecil Commerce Center and $1.2 million for repairs to the docks for the Mayport Ferry.

The biggest winner was UF Health Jacksonville. Funding hospital care for low-income patients was one of the reasons lawmakers had to return to Tallahassee in June for a special session. 

The governor and the federal government could not come to terms on Medicaid funding, which helps safety net hospitals like UF Health pay for indigent care.

It's one of the biggest items state Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, was fighting for this session.

"As long as the governor signs the budget, I believe the way we crafted the budget for UF Health and safety-net hospitals will remain largely whole," Gibson said. "The questions comes in, 'How do we plan for next year with even less federal dollars?'"

Officials with UF Health said they will not discuss the funding until the governor signs the bill.

"We did get some funding for the Cecil Commerce Center, and that is a really important issue because it's about our space opportunities," said state Rep. Lake Ray, R-Jacksonville.

One high-profile local project the Legislature didn't fund was improvements to EverBank Field.

"The stadium was never in consideration because none of that got done during the regular session," Gibson said. "It wasn't part of the call or the special session."

The budget did include $400 million in tax breaks, including cuts to taxes to cellphone and utility bills and a longer back-to-school sales-tax holidays.