Scott to call for repeal of differential tuition law

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for re-election, will use his State of the State address on Tuesday to discuss several issues.

Rick is calling for the repeal of a 2009 law that allows universities to increase tuition up to 15 percent per year.

"This year, with your help, we want to get rid of the 15 percent annual increase and inflationary increase on tuition," Scott is scheduled to say, according to excerpts released by his office Monday. "Undoing these 2007 and 2009 laws is another way we can keep higher education affordable and accessible."

Scott has made holding down tuition at state universities one of his priorities during the last two years, vetoing a tuition hike lawmakers had approved as part of the state budget last year. He will call for the legislation to do away with automatic increases in tuition that are designed to account for inflation in years when lawmakers don't raise tuition.

"It (the legislative proposal) is a step in the right direction, but the governor is focused on getting rid of the 15 percent annual increase so we can help our students obtain an affordable education," Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said.

House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz proposed lowering the 15 percent cap on differential tuition to 6 percent, partly due to the state's growing prepaid tuition program.

"Everything is up for conversation," said Weatherford. "I think 6 percent is a good number in the sense that it provides some autonomy for the institutions to be able to utilize the differential if they need it at some point, but it's also a low enough number to where it makes our prepaid contract affordable."

State University System Head Chancellor Marshall Criser has avoided commenting on tuition, but instead has tried to address the issue about funding for 12 schools, as well as tying university budgets to performance.

"The chancellor is aware of the governor's position on tuition and believes that tuition is only one part of the discussion," said Brittany Davis, a spokeswoman for Criser. "The larger question is, 'How we can demonstrate to our elected leaders the value of investing in our university system?' As we demonstrate the value the system creates and move into an era of performance funding, we expect that we will be able to strike the right balance on tuition for our students and their families."

Scott will also discuss reductions in taxes and fees, reducing the state's debt and job creation.

Lawmakers will begin the 60-day legislative session Tuesday.