Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander told the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday that the House and Senate can't agree on bottom-line allocations and the two chambers can't reconcile their differences in conference committees until the week of April 25, following Easter.
"We will continue to work toward a productive budget conference following next week's holidays -- following next week's holidays.... perhaps," Alexander said. "Unfortunately, we are not quite as far along as we want to be."
The two chambers are about $4 billion apart on their bottom lines. That's largely due to new accounting practices on behalf of the Senate, which wants to rope in water-management districts, three expressway authorities and employee health care costs into the budget. The Senate's $70.1 billion budget also accounts for the 67 county clerks' budgets. The House's $66.5 billion budget has none of that.
The House has an ace-in-the hole: Speaker Dean Cannon, who doesn't appear to want anything more out of the Legislature. So he doesn't feel the pressing need to rush ahead and get out on time, May 6 -- unlike Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who wants to hit the campaign trail in his bid for U.S. Senate.
Another sticking point: Medicaid. Some in the House feel the Senate's version of a Medicaid reform bill is too unlike the product the House sent the Senate last year. Alexander said he "stands with" Haridopolos on Medicaid, and noted that Gov. Rick Scott supports elements of both the House and Senate plans.
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