TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Senate is taking up a nearly $71 billion budget that includes deep cuts to universities.

The Senate is expected to most of Thursday debating a new spending plan for the state. Senators will likely focus on $400 million in cuts to the state’s 11 universities. Tampa Bay area senators say proposed cuts for the University of South Florida are unfair and they want to reduce them.

The cuts to USF come while Sen. J.D. Alexander is pushing to break off the Lakeland branch campus into a stand-alone university. The Senate is scheduled to take up a bill Thursday to create that new school.

The House has already passed its version of the budget.

The two sides have until March 9 to work out differences on their spending plans.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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