No 'Bull': Alexander, Weatherford collide on USF
The political fight du jour in Tallahassee concerns proposed $400 million in cuts to universities' reserves to balance the Senate budget.
The issue puts a pair of powerful lawmakers on a collision course: Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, the Senate budget chairman who defends the one-time raid on university budgets, and Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, the incoming speaker of the House. Weatherford is protective of the University of South Florida and many families in his Pasco-Hillsborough district are members of "Bull Nation," which is fully mobilized to oppose the proposed cuts as disproportionately unfair to USF.
"The House is certainly going to be holding firm on making sure that no single university is held out or is treated differently than the others," Weatherford said. "Picking out one university and treating them differently than everybody else is not right."
Weatherford also is keenly aware that Alexander's goal of making USF Polytechnic in Lakeland the state's 12th university requires House approval. He wants the reserves issue handled separately from the USF Poly issue. As he told the Times/Herald: "I don't think you can have a conversation with one until you resolve the other ... To me, the budget issue is non-negotiable. It's a non-starter. We're not going to treat one university different than the others."
Told of Weatherford's remarks, Alexander told reporters: "That's not productive to the process. I think over the coming weeks, we will resolve our budgets between us. We'll find the right mix of short-term cuts and long-term cuts."