Budget Remains in Limbo Until After Easter Weekend
Around the State
The House and Senate budget talks, originally scheduled for this week, will have to wait until after Easter, as preparations to begin conference meetings between the two chambers broke down Wednesday.
"We are not ready to go to conference," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales. “When we are, we’ll go forward.”
The differences between the two budgets mainly revolve around the Senate's $69.8 billion budget, which brings in the water management districts, consolidates the Turnpike Enterprise and includes the clerks of court budget, which are left out of the House's leaner $66.5 billion budget.
Because the Senate is not meeting next week due to the Passover and Easter holidays, the budget talks will not start until at least April 25.
House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, sent a memo to representatives noting that House committees should wrap up their proceedings next week -- setting the stage for the budget negotiations and conferencing after the Easter weekend.
“We look forward to working with our partners in the Senate when they return from their Passover/Easter recess,” insisted Cannon in the memo. “I am optimistic that the conference process will produce a responsible, balanced budget that will address Florida’s critical needs.”
While the Senate heads out of Tallahassee, Cannon wrote that he expected House members to meet next week.
“The House will conduct business throughout week seven of session,” noted Cannon in the memo. “Pursuant to the published schedules, members should plan to be in Tallahassee on Wednesday, April 20, and Thursday, April 21. The House will maximize the time available during week seven, and members should be prepared for full work schedules on both days.”
In the meantime, neither Cannon nor Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, have named members to their respective chambers’ budget conferencing teams -- a sign that much work will be needed before the two sides reach final agreement before the session ends on May 6.
“We have not named conferees and we would not expect to name conferees this week,” said Alexander on Wednesday.
Both Cannon and Alexander noted that legislators could be forced to stay after the end of session.
“We’d rather stay and get it right than rush and get it wrong,” said Alexander.
Cannon left that possibility open in the memo he sent out to House members.
“For purposes of managing your schedules and the expectations of your families, I would advise members not to make plans or firm commitments for the period of time immediately following the scheduled end of session,” wrote Cannon.
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