Gary Fineout, Associated Press.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida lawmakers, racing against the clock to reach a deal on a roughly $70 billion state budget, have signed off on a deal to raise tuition for college students.

House and Senate budget negotiators have agreed to the tuition hike even though Gov. Rick Scott has continued to oppose raising the cost of college right now.

The deal reached on Wednesday calls for tuition to go up by 5 percent for students who attend one of Florida’s 28 state colleges.

Legislators are not going to order to a tuition hike for the state’s 11 universities.

But the budget anticipates the state panel that oversees the state university system will approve increases of 15 percent for all or most universities. That’s the maximum the board can approve on its own.

By handling the university tuition hike this way state lawmakers may be able to avoid a veto by Scott.

Republican legislators have defended proposed tuition hikes by noting that Florida’s tuition rates are among the lowest in the nation.

Lawmakers this year are also considering a separate bill that would allow the state’s two major research universities — University of Florida and Florida State University — to have wide power to raise tuition rates.

Scott would not say Wednesday if he would veto that bill if it reaches his desk. But he repeated his position that he is not in favor of tuition hikes this year.

“Every part of government needs to do the same thing Florida families have had to do, they have had to tighten their belts,” Scott said.

Legislators have until early next week to finalize a deal on a new state budget. Florida law requires the budget to be finished 72 hours before it can be voted on. The session is scheduled to end March 9.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.


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