Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

State lawmakers struggle to make budget deal as session clock ticks

State House budget chairwoman Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, and Senate budget chairman JD Alexander pause during talks Sunday night to reach a budget agreement in Tallahassee.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

State House budget chairwoman Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, and Senate budget chairman JD Alexander pause during talks Sunday night to reach a budget agreement in Tallahassee.

TALLAHASSEE — Racing against the clock, legislators labored Sunday to settle spending differences and agree on a $70 billion budget with five days left in the session.

They made progress in all-day talks that ended at 8 p.m., but today will be another marathon day as lawmakers left some of the most contentious issues to the final hours. They include how much money to spend on public schools, whether to take $300 million from universities' reserves and whether the House will go along with the Senate in making Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland the state's 12th university.

For the 60-day session to end on time Friday, a final budget must be agreed upon and printed by Tuesday. To balance the budget, lawmakers are considering taking $300 million from universities' reserve accounts.

"The reserve issue is problematic," said Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, a Florida State graduate who is protective of FSU in the budget. "A lot of schools thought they were doing the right thing by saving money, but they can be hit the hardest."

Budget negotiators did agree on the size of cuts to hospitals, nursing homes and mental health programs.

Hospital reimbursements will be cut by 5.64 percent, except for rural and children's hospitals, which will be spared that cut. The hospitals' rate cut was 7.5 percent, but lawmakers reduced the impact with an infusion of one-time money.

"The hospitals of Florida have had a very good evening," said Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

In a Capitol hearing room packed with lobbyists, the House and Senate swapped budget offers and some community projects made the cut. Senators agreed to the House offer to give Pasco County $1 million for a local initiative targeting prescription drug abuse, and $700,000 more to the Pasco Sheriff's Office to investigate complaints of child abuse. Both Pasco projects will be funded with one-time money, which means they are one-year projects.

Lawmakers also spent $2 million for real-time signage on Florida interstate highways to warn motorists of crashes and problems, in the wake of devastating crashes on Interstate-75 near Gainesville.

Following questions by Democrats, lawmakers removed budget language that would have allowed the Department of Corrections to move money between budget categories "for outsourcing efforts."

In the most divisive vote of the 2012 session, the Senate voted 21-19 to reject a proposed privatization of all prisons in 18 South Florida counties. Some anti-privatization lawmakers and lobbyists were on high alert for a possible last-minute maneuver to keep privatization alive, but it didn't happen.

Republicans said they were not giving the prison system authority to expand privatization, and when Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston asked why the language was needed, Republicans quickly eliminated it.

"The budget is really pretty thin on cash," said Senate Budget Chairman JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales. "I don't think anybody's quite satisfied, but I think we're making good progress on a budget that will work for Florida."

Most rank-and-file state workers will not receive a pay increase for the sixth year in a row.

State lawmakers struggle to make budget deal as session clock ticks 03/04/12 [Last modified: Sunday, March 4, 2012 10:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking on that comically bad dive?

    Blogs

    What could Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. been thinking in the seventh inning Friday when he dove for a ball and came up yards short?

    Actually, he insisted after all the laughing, teasing and standing ovation from the Twins fans was done, it was a matter of self-preservation.

  2. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo

    Nation

    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  3. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies

    News

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
  4. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win

    Colleges

    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.
  5. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.