Senator Alexander: Overtime looking more likely
(State Senator J.D. Alexander, R- Lake Walles, right, reports to members of the Florida Senate about ongoing budget negotiations between the Senate and House, Monday evening. Differences still remain and overtime for the annual session seems more likely. On the left are Senators Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Ellen Bogdanoff, R- Ft. Lauderdale. Scott Keeler, Times)
The Senate and House remain at odds over a small part of the health care budget and legislative leaders are increasingly talking about the possibility of going into overtime. House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, described a "photo finish" on Friday, but the Senate sounds more pessimistic.
"We're getting very close to the point where we may have to have some extended time. I hate that for all of us," Senate Budget Chairman JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, told the Senate Tuesday evening. "Hopefully, we'll be able to get this thing wrapped up soon."
Later, Alexander told reporters that even after an agreement is reached, it takes about four hours to proofread the conference report and another four hours to get printed copies on to members' desks, which triggers the start of the 72-hour "cooling off period" before state legislators can cast an up-or-down vote on the final budget.
Persistent differences include spending for adult mental health and substance abuse programs, provider rates to doctors and hospitals, and funding for two programs that are perennially on the chopping block: Medically Needy and MEDS-AD for the aged and disabled.
Alexander said senators feel they have compromised enough on K-12 schools and higher education, and it's time for the House to give some ground. "I don't think the Senate can be just dictated to," Alexander said.