TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Aug.27 -- State agencies, lawmakers and lobbyists are in the midst of a feeding frenzy over how to spend the $11.3 billion dollars from Florida's settlement with the tobacco industry. Faced with a public-school overcrowding crisis, Florida Education Commissioner Frank Brogan and Republican lawmakers want to use the state's windfall of tobacco money to pay for new classrooms.
Brogan says, 'Education has taken a bath over the last 10 years. The bill has come due. It's time to give that money back to education.' But Gov. Lawton Chiles says the money must go toward children's health programs and other areas outlined in the court-approved settlement agreement, and at least one Democratic lawmaker agrees. Orlando state Sen. Buddy Dyer says legislators hoping to divert the money to schools are 'vultures.' But Republican leaders in the Legislature who had dismissed the idea of raising taxes to ease school crowding now say the tobacco settlement should stifle any movement for a tax hike. Sen. John Grant, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, says, 'If ever there was an opportunity to convince a conservative populace of the need of a tax increase, that opportunity is gone now.' Just a week ago, Grant had called for some kind of tax hike for education. The battle over the tobacco windfall likely will continue for years. The settlement calls for the $11.3 billion to be dispersed over 25 years, beginning with a $1 billion payment the first year. The first two checks are due by Sept. 15 ---
Copyright 1997 by United Press International. All rights reserved. ---