Senate president drops by press gallery: Nelson’s old and Scott’s a rockby Dara Kam | May 6th, 2011
As the Senate began debating the budget in anticipation of a vote late this evening, President Mike Haridopolos dropped into the press gallery to chat with reporters at the close of the 60-day legislative session.
Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, boasted that he’s achieved the goals he set out at the onset of the 60-day legislative session: a balanced budget, no new taxes, Medicaid reform, and passing “Smart Cap,” the proposed constitutional amendment limiting how much government can spend he’s championed for 11 years.
The result is “hopefully that people will be able to see Florida as a business-friendly state,” he said. “That was my goal and I’m happy to report on the final day of session we met those goals.”
But cutting $3.6 billion from the state budget without raising taxes and creating sweeping new policies on Medicaid, education and pensions wasn’t easy, Haridopolos said, .
“This was a very difficult year, a very trying year in many cases,” he said.
The biggest – if not only – issue left undone is immigration, Haridopolos said. The Senate passed its measure but House Speaker Dean Cannon said the proposal is dead because it doesn’t go far enough for the super-majority of his 120 members needed to take it up.
Haridopolos said he hoped the House would consider what he called solid, common-sense legislation that would deport criminals after their sentences are served and would have required anyone receiving state or federal benefits be a legal resident of the state.
“Too often politicians operate through bumper stickers,” Haridopolos said. “This is what the legislative process is about…
It’s not just a public opinion poll that says do this. We’ll come back next year with more information.”
Asked how much influence Gov. Rick Scott – who Senate budget chief JD Alexander said earlier should take a “victory lap” – had on the session, Haridopolos said: “He was a rock” because “you knew he was not going to raise taxes” and would veto any measures that did.
The Senate president, also running for U.S. Senate in the GOP primary, took a couple of campaign-related questions as well.
Democrats are using a coloring book based on the single-copy book Haridopolos wrote and was paid more than $150K for as a fundraising tool on the last day of session.
Haridopolos shrugged it off and even signed a copy for Miami Herald reporter Marc Caputo.
“Welcome to the NFL. I guess I’m in the NFL now and I’m playing on the field. Look, it says something if they’re constantly attacking me. So I must be doing something they don’t like if they spend so much time and attention on me,” Haridopolos said.
Then came a little bashing of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
“I think the contrast is pretty darn clear between me and Bill Nelson. Bill Nelson’s been in office since I was two years old.
And other than getting a ride on the shuttle, name me something major in this building, in Washington, D.C., that he has accomplished since I was two years old,” the 41-year-old said. “I like to think I get things done. He’s a person who holds a press conference….a press conference is not legislation.”