With a late-night huddle, House, Senate all but button-up budget talksby John Kennedy | April 28th, 2014
The House and Senate all-but buttoned up a roughly $75 billion state budget late Sunday night, but still face another day of haggling over language that will implement the 2014-15 spending plan.
House Budget Chief Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, and Senate counterpart Joe Negron, R-Stuart, took part in public meetings twice Sunday — the last gaveled in shortly after 11 p.m. Agreements covered a range of education, health care and environmental issues that had been separating the two sides.
In one of the biggest budget areas — public school spending — lawmakers settled on a 2.6 percent per-pupil increase for Florida’s 2.7 million school kids. That should boost spending by about $175 per-student to around $6,935, still below the state’s pre-recession level of $7,126 reached in 2007-08.
The funding level is less than what the House originally proposed — at 3 percent, but about where the Senate originally recommended. Both sides beat Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed 2.5 percent increase.
With a budget surplus of $1.2 billion, spending decisions were made easier. But lawmakers are still racing toward a Tuesday deadline of having the final budget before lawmakers so a constitutionally required 72-hour waiting period can pass before a vote Friday, the session’s last scheduled day.
Other deals Sunday included the House going along with the Senate on the bulk of environmental spending, including $47 million for beach restoration,$73.9 million for hometown water projects and $22.8 million for springs preservation work, less than half the $55 million sought by Scott.