TALLAHASSEE — Having wrestled with their respective budgets late last week, the House and Senate return today to begin what should be intense negotiations over a final product.
The budget conference process was scheduled to begin at 8 a.m., but Sunday afternoon, leaders said it would be delayed. The Senate suggested the meeting be scrapped because the two chambers aren't yet in sync on a bottom line.
"We will continue to work with our Senate partners and will notify you when we have further information," House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, wrote in a memo.
But sometime early this week, the posturing has to end, and budget leaders have to agree on a series of questions:
How big a cigarette tax increase? How much more gambling? How much money will be swept from trust funds — the single-purpose accounts for affordable housing and road building?
The task is especially difficult this year with an estimated $3 billion revenue shortfall. The House on Friday approved its $65 billion spending plan, but the vote was largely on party lines, with Democrats opposed.
The Senate on Thursday passed its spending plan unanimously. It spends nearly $550 million more than the House.
Also Monday, the Senate will take up the controversial proposal to ask voters to scale back the class-size amendment.
The House passed the plan on a largely partisan vote, with Democrats opposed because they fear it will hurt school funding.
The plan puts a constitutional amendment on the 2010 ballot that halts class-size compliance at the school average, while raising the maximum number of students per classroom.
Staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.