Budget deal near -- again
Sounds like Senate President Jeff Atwater and Larry Cretul are closer than ever to announcing a broad agreement on how to allocate money in the budget, making an end to the legislative session likely by next Friday.
However, there is no solid agreement yet on the allocations themselves (i.e., how much to allot to each silo of the budget/the bottom lines of what taxes and fees to raid). If there's a deal, a budget conference could begin today or this evening.
One lead budget negotiator, Rep. Dean Cannon, said he could "neither confirm nor deny" the report. Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander was circumspect as well. "I feel much better today," Alexander said from the Senate floor. "Life is good."
New Port Richey Sen. Mike Fasano chimed in: "Want some orange juice? We just toasted."
In fairness, it looked like Alexander was drinking coffee. But the reference was clear, recalling the 1997 OJ-toasting ceremony of Republican lawmakers when they took control of the Capitol. We highlighted the issue and the concerns of Republicans like Fasano in this weekend story.
During back-and-forth talks, we gather, the Senate is willing to take $100M from the state transportation trust fund (the House wanted $420). The Senate will also take tens (if not hundreds) of millions from the Inland Protection Trust Fund that helps clean up leaky fuel tanks that poison underground water supplies (The House wanted $175M). There's also a cig tax (c. $900M) and some type of gambling money ($380M?). Details to come.
Again, a caveat: no guarantees. A House budget chief, Miami Rep. David Rivera, describe whether there's a done deal as "medium well." Senate Republican leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla said they're "very close" to a firm deal and, therefore, an announcement.
Marc Caputo, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau