House Republicans push 'take it or leave it' budget as Democrats accuse GOP of 'playing games'
The Florida House on Tuesday forged ahead with House Speaker Richard Corcoran's strategy of sending the Senate a stand-pat, take-it-or-leave-it budget, even as reports swirled that the two sides had begun productive discussions on a number of budget-related policy priorities.
UPDATE, 10 a.m.: Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, the next Senate president, told the Herald/Times' Jeremy Wallace that budget talks were back on track and agreement on spending allocations in budget areas could be reached Tuesday.
On a party-line vote, the Republican majority on the 30-member House Appropriations Committee adopted the state's existing $82.1 billion budget for a second fiscal year beginning July 1 -- an action believed to be unprecedented in the Legislature's history. The vote puts the "standard operating budget" in position for a House floor vote. Budget negotiations between Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, broke down over the weekend, but Negron's chief budget-writer, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, was in a noticeably more jovial mood than he was Monday.
Forced to consider the SOB budget, angry Democrats on the House budget panel resented being part of what they consider a time-wasting political stunt by Corcoran and his leadership team to score political points in the next-to-the-last week of the 2017 session. Tuesday's vote appeared to drive a partisan wedge through the House.
Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, the House Democratic leader, her voice rising, read off a lengthy list of programs that would receive no money if the House position prevails, many of them to help people with developmental disabilities.
Cruz accused the GOP of political posturing. "We all just need to grow up," Cruz said, and do what the "frigging taxpayers asked us to do."
Rep. Rick Stark, D-Weston, followed Cruz by reading off a second list of cuts to cancer therapy, adult education and other programs.
"I feel like my time is being wasted," said Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park. "We're playing games ... this is ridiculous."
"I'm sorry if your personal pet projects are getting cut," said an unapologetic Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford.
UPDATE: Some House Republicans reminded Democrats that they supported essentially the same budget in the 2016 session, but Democrats said that was false. The House Democratic Office produced a comparison of the current budget and the budget voted on Tuesday showing a $382 million cut in environmental spending and $351 million less for education,