Rhetoric flies, party lines divide with budget debateby John Kennedy | May 6th, 2011
Working into the night on the legislative session’s 60th and final day, the House and Senate debated the $69.7 billion budget — the lone bill by law the Legislature must pass each year.
The rhetoric flew in both chambers, with the partisan lines clearly marked. A final vote isn’t expected until after 10 p.m.
Ruling Republicans praised the spending plan for closing a $3.8 billion shortfall, including no-new-taxes, and managing to avoid deep cuts to programs serving critically ill, elderly and disabled Floridians.
“Contained within this budget is the seed for a money tree,” said Rep. Lake Ray, R-Jacksonville, touting the blueprint’s economic development potential.
Democrats, though, ridiculed the plan for cutting $1.3 billion from schools, reducing dollars for environmental programs, and imposing 3 percent pay cuts on 655,000 government employees who will have to contribute to the Florida Retirement System for the first time since 1974.
Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, has stung House Republican leaders several times this session by accusing them of “sticking it” to various segments of Floridians.
He used the phrase to criticize Republicans for enacting new pay standards for teachers, and changes Clemens and other critics said were aimed at reducing womens’ access to abortion.
“It’s a great day in the state of Florida,” Clemens told the House on Friday afternoon, “because this is the last day I can ask ‘who are we sticking it to today?’ Unfortunately, the answer is Floridians.”