Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Legislature can't agree how to spend $83 billion, so session goes to overtime

House Budget Chair Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, on the floor of the Florida House. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]

House Budget Chair Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, on the floor of the Florida House. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]

TALLAHASSEE — Florida's legislative session will head into overtime after two top Republicans — privately negotiating billions of dollars worth of spending and substantive policy — failed to meet a deadline to get an $83 billion budget done Tuesday night so that the session could end on time Friday.

As time expired Tuesday, Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, said the 60-day session would have to be prolonged, but they didn't yet know for how long.

"We will definitely not complete the budget work prior to the end of Friday," Negron told reporters Tuesday evening — a few hours after House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, downplayed the increasingly expected delay by saying an on-time budget was still "90 percent likely."

Amid the budget gridlock, lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to each side's top priority: the Senate's $800 million water-storage reservoir to reduce pollution south of Lake Okeechobee, and the House's proposal to expand the homestead property tax exemption to $75,000, subject to voter approval in 2018.

But that wasn't enough to overcome unresolved differences in spending for health care, environmental programs and higher education.

The biggest sticking point in negotiations: cuts to hospital funding.

A broad budget agreement reached last week by the House and Senate included $650 million in cuts to Medicaid. But they still haven't agreed on how to put those cuts — or $1.5 billion that the federal government has offered to help hospitals with charity care — into effect.

"The health care budget is the biggest one left — some issues tied to that," Corcoran said.

Because health care makes up a third of the state's budget, disagreement there can cause the entire spending plan to grind to a halt. That's what happened in 2015 when the Legislature was forced to reconvene in a June special session to pass a budget.

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens said Democrats are ready to stay in Tallahassee.

"All my members have been prepared for summer, for special session. That's not a threat to us," Braynon said. "If it's a terrible bill, terrible budget, we're willing to stay."

With no viable budget compromise on the horizon, lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol were already preparing Tuesday morning to stick around past Friday.

Thonotosassa Republican Sen. Tom Lee, a former Senate president and budget chairman, told reporters that from his experience, lawmakers were too behind schedule to finish on time and that he would support extending the session.

"I was musing on the floor that I wish somebody would let us know, because I know I'm going to need some new underwear come Saturday," Lee joked. "And I don't know whether I need a one-pack, a three-pack or what. We've got to get prepared for some overtime."

For the session to have ended on time, Negron and Corcoran would have needed to agree on a final budget — and allowed time for staff to finalize the written bill and publish it online — before the end of Tuesday, so lawmakers could have had the constitutionally required, 72-hour "cooling-off" period before voting on the budget on Friday.

The Legislature can now extend the session by a three-fifths vote in both chambers — a move lawmakers can exercise only once.

If there's still no agreement after that, the extreme scenario would be for Gov. Rick Scott to issue a proclamation convening a special session, which would mandate lawmakers to return to Tallahassee and agree on a budget before June 30, the end of the budget year.

"It's better to get it right than to get it fast," Lee said Tuesday, echoing comments Negron has made. "We're better off extending session than trying to come back up."

Lee added that some lawmakers will potentially have no place to stay if the session is prolonged. Several members live in hotel rooms during the session, and Florida State University has its graduation ceremonies this weekend, so rooms are scarce.

Legislature can't agree how to spend $83 billion, so session goes to overtime 05/02/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 2, 2017 10:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pentagon investigating troubling questions after deadly Niger ambush

    Military

    WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, troubled by a lack of information two weeks after an ambush on a special operations patrol in Niger left four U.S. soldiers dead, is demanding a timeline of what is known about the attack, as a team of investigators sent to West Africa begins its work.

  2. In the military, trusted officers became alleged assailants in sex crimes

    Military

    The Army is grappling with a resurgence of cases in which troops responsible for preventing sexual assault have been accused of rape and related crimes, undercutting the Pentagon's claims that it is making progress against sexual violence in the ranks.

    Christina Radomski (left) once walked into a print shop to pick up a project for her husband Mike Radomski (right) and saw the bulletin board behind the counter full of thank-you notes her Mike had written. Mike Radomski, 29, died Oct. 12, 2017 in a car accident near his home in Wildwood, Fla.
  3. Trump on his Puerto Rico response: 'I'd say it was a 10'

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump gave himself a "10" on Thursday for his response to the widespread devastation Puerto Rico suffered after back-to-back hurricanes created a situation that the island's governor described as "catastrophic" as he met with Trump at the White House.

    Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello speaks with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Thursday.
  4. Editorial: Rubio, Bilirakis owe Floridians answers on drug law

    Editorials

    Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor have some explaining to do. They were co-sponsors of legislation making it harder for the Drug Enforcement Administration to go after drug companies that distribute prescription pills to unscrupulous doctors and pharmacists, contributing to the deadly opioid crisis …

    Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor has some explaining to do. He was a co-sponsor of legislation making it harder for the Drug Enforcement Administration to go after drug companies that distribute prescription pills to unscrupulous doctors and pharmacists.
  5. Former Hillsborough school official files lawsuit alleging high-level corruption

    K12

    TAMPA — The fired human resources chief of the Hillsborough County School District is accusing district leaders and two School Board members of committing corrupt acts and then punishing her when she would not go along.

    Stephanie Woodford rose through the ranks of the Hillsborough County School District, then was fired as Chief of Human Resources on April 28. She's now suing the district, alleging numerous acts of corruption. [EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times]