Update on status of state budget negotiations
It's the sixth week and 37th day of the legislative session and some lawmakers are restless that the House and Senate still aren't ready to embark on the spring ritual of budget negotiations. At the moment, the major sticking point is that the two chambers haven't yet agreed on bottom-line allocation numbers. That's a key step before Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon can appoint conferees, and the Senate budget is nearly $4-billion greater than the House's because of decisions involving expressway authorities, the clerks of courts and water management districts.
This snag in budget talks is unusual for one fact. The Senate is taking off all next week (April 18-22) because of the holidays of Passover and Easter. The House will be in session Wednesday and Thursday of next week, so if budget talks don't get underway in the next couple of days, they can't start until April 25, which is the next-to-last week of the session.
"I don't know what's happening with conference. I guess we're on standby," said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, as he wrapped up the last scheduled meeting of his budget subcommittee on justice programs. "There's a possibility we might be here this weekend."
Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, a member of the panel, said he didn't know one way or the other when the budget negotiations would began, and said he hadn't heard anything from Haridopolos' office.