Florida Governor Asks Funds for Books, Not 'Bloated Bureaucracy'

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Gov. Bob Martinez of Florida last week proposed a substantial salary increase for teachers and new textbooks for schoolchildren, but said he would not fund a "bloated and inefficient education bureaucracy.''

"If teachers need higher pay and students need more books, then let's actually pay teachers more money and actually buy more books through specific legislation,'' Mr. Martinez said in his State of the State Message to the legislature on April 7.

"But let's not throw hundreds of millions of dollars at a bloated and inefficient education bureaucracy in the forlorn hope that most of it will trickle down into the classroom.''

The Governor proposed a 7 percent salary increase for classroom teachers for each of the next two years, at a cost of approximately $670 million.

"This recommended annual increase is twice the 1986 national average for private-sector raises,'' he said.

But it would not raise teacher salaries in Florida to the national average for teacher pay--an even more expensive proposal favored by Betty Castor, state superintendent of education.

Mr. Martinez argued that the national average "is irrelevant.''

"What is relevant concerning teacher pay is how much is meaningful and practical in Florida, taking everything into consideration,'' he said.

"Three quarters of a billion dollars may not sound like much in an ivory tower, but it certainly is a lot of money where I come from.''

The average teacher salary in Florida was $24,256 in 1985-86, according to the Governor's office.

The Governor also proposed spending an additional $25 million over the two-year period for the purchase of instructional materials--"enough to ensure that every child has a textbook for every class,'' he said.

But he declined to put any more money into general-education funding, based on his belief that the "bureaucracy can make do with less.''

He also did not include funding for the state's new career-ladder program in the first year of his biennial budget. Aides to the Governor said he plans to fund the career ladder in 1988-89 with money generated from a statewide lottery.

Mr. Martinez's total proposed spending for the division of public schools is approximately $4.03 billion for 1987-88, and $4.31 billion for 1988-89, according to Deborah Gallay, the Governor's education coordinator. The current appropriation is approximately $3.79 billion.

He has proposed a total state budget of approximately $18 billion for each year in the biennium. Current state spending, including capital outlays, is approximately $16.5 billion.

Mr. Martinez said his budget would cut in half the annual rate of spending increases in Florida, in an attempt to "get spending under control.''

In addition, he has proposed a major restructuring of the state's tax system.

Florida's principal source of revenue is the state sales tax, which is now levied only on the sale of goods. According to Mr. Martinez, "the growth rate of this limited revenue source simply does not keep pace with the costs of meeting the rising demands for public services.''

To address the problem, he has recommended extending the sales tax to services. In addition, he favors reducing the tax from 5 percent to 4.5 percent.

Mr. Martinez argued that his proposal would be more progressive than alternative plans to raise the sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent, because the purchasers of services are "more affluent as a group than the population as a whole.'' Under the plan, he said, many Floridians would actually receive a "tax break.''

The Governor also recommended that local governments be given the authority to levy a 1 percent "local option'' sales tax, which they could use to fund capital improvements only, such as school construction. The tax would be subject to referendum approval by local voters.

Vol. 06, Issue 29

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