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After tough talk, Legislature’s budget deal begins to take shape

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 by John Kennedy

The House and Senate have agreed to budget allocations — a broad spending agreement that allows lawmakers to now begun negotiating tomorrow on differences between the two sides, House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos announced Tuesday.

The move comes after tough words were exchanged a day earlier between the two sides. But even more significantly, the Senate abandoned its resistence to putting on next year’s ballot a Cannon plan to overhaul the Florida Supreme Court.

It also gives lawmakers some hope of ending the legislative session May 6 — the final scheduled day of the 60-day session.

“Resolving a budget shortfall of nearly $4 billion is a tall order, but I’m pleased the House and Senate wored through this difficult process,” said Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island. “Our allocations ensure that we preserve our bond ratings by maintaining adequate reserves. Most importantly, we do not take money out of the struggling Florida economy by increasing taxes or fees.”

Haridopolos apparently is overlooking the tuition increases, pay cuts to government employees, reduced education financial aid and possible increases to property insurance, telephone and electricity rates that are either part of the state budget or still in play as lawmakers roll through the legislative homestretch.

Cannon said he would announce his House budget negotiating team this afternoon, with the Senate also naming its deal-makers. The conference committee’s first meeting is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

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