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Senate prez, budget chief to House: This isn’t a ploy

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Senate President Mike Haridopolos and his budget chief JD Alexander aren’t playing games by refusing to sign off on a $200 million permanent cut to higher education, the pair told reporters this morning.

The blow-up over a fraction of the state’s approximately $70 billion spending plan could put lawmakers into overtime and a possible reprise of last year’s ugly session finale.

The final budget agreement must land on legislators’ desks by Tuesday because of a 72-hour “cooling off” period required before a vote.

Alexander said gave his House counterpart Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, an offer at 7 p.m. last night but had not heard back as of about noon.

Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said the Senate had made a concession to the House by backing off on health and human services cuts and expects reciprocation on the higher ed issue.

“We are equal chambers. I have gone out of my way the last couple years, walking over to the House last year, working with the House to say ‘This isn’t the old, arrogant Senate,” Haridopolos a former House member, said, growing heated. “This is an accommodating Senate that is always working together with people. There’s always been this thing that the Senate is arrogant and so forth. We’re not going to do that. But we’re not going to sit here and disrespect the members of this chamber who worked hard on this budget and not have some give and take.”

In the otherwise fractured Senate, GOP leaders now have the backing on holding firm on the higher ed issue from both Democrats and rogue Republicans.

Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said the permanent cuts to colleges and universities would cause a “dramatic loss of programs”and force lay-offs in an education system already struggling to manage shrunken budgets.

Once that issue is resolved, Alexander said it would take “maybe 10 minutes” to clear up the rest of the budget. But time to get started to finish on time is getting “razor-thin,” he said.

“I’m fearful that they think this is a ploy. But it’s not a ploy,” Alexander said.

Session ends with hard feelings after major meltdown

Saturday, May 7th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Lawmakers approved a $69.7 billion spending plan and quietly ended the 2011 legislative session at 3:35 a.m. without any pomp and circumstance.

Instead, the 60-day session ended with Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon publicly rebuking each other over with Haridopolos accusing Cannon of playing “silly games” and Cannon claiming to “take the high road” by rejecting a controversial Senate tax break.

Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, called his members back after 2 a.m. this morning to take up a tax-break proposal that includes a three-day sales tax holiday for back-to-school shoppers after the House stripped out a tax break for at least one greyhound dog track in Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher’s district.

Haridopolos apologized for asking them to return about an hour after he sent them home and instructed them the session would reconvene at 10 a.m.

Shortly before Haridopolos recalled the Senate, Cannon gaveled down the House without passing two claims bills that were Haridopolos priorities. Eric Brody was set to get $12 million from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office for an accident more than a decade ago that left him severely disabled, and William Dillon was slated to get less than $1 million after being wrongfully imprisoned for nearly three decades for a crime he didn’t commit.

“They should have been served today by this legislature. Politics got in the way today and I’m embarrassed,” he said.
Gov. Rick Scott left the building around midnight as the legislative session devolved into chaos. Scott had been scheduled to participate in the ceremonial white hanky drop but instead went home to bed because he had a busy schedule this weekend, his spokesman Brian Burgess said.

The House approved the budget shortly before 2 a.m., about two-and-a-half hours after the Senate and following some very hard feelings between the two chambers.

The House then took up the disputed tax break bill (CS/SB 7203).

But the House remained angered by the Senate’s killing a pair of professional deregulation bills earlier in the night — with House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, saying that move broke an agreement between the two chambers.

“In light of the Senate’s inability to meet that obligation, I’ve decided that our chamber would take the high road…and send it all to the Senate tonight, and leave no ambiguity,” Cannon said.

The House took up the tax-break bill, voted to remove the Jacksonville track provision, repackaged the measure as HB 143 and sent it back to the Senate. With the budget behind them, and the tax-break package structured to their liking, Cannon and House members adjourned at 2:07 a.m., Saturday.

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Scott’s tax cuts fall flat with lawmakers

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Both the House and Senate have so far rejected Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed tax cuts for businesses and homeowners.

Budget chiefs in both chambers, who released their initial spending plans this week, said they just can’t find a way to cut tax collections while they’ve got $3.8 billion less to spend than last year.

“We don’t have it in the budget,” said House budget chair Denise Grimsley, R-Lake Placid, moments after her appropriations committee approved a stark, $66.5 billion on a party-line vote. “We’d like to do them (tax cuts). But we just don’t have the money right now.”

The Senate plan doesn’t have them either, at least “at this point,” Senate President Mike Haridopolos said.

Haridopolos indicated it would be hard to justify tax cuts at a time when lawmakers are handing pink slips to state workers.

“At this point we’re focused on cutting spending first,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said. “I think sometimes people look at this very conservative legislature like we enjoy cutting. I mean, these are tough calls. These are tough decisions. There’s a lot of people that are going to lose their jobs. Anybody who says this is with glee or we’re enjoying these cuts, far from it.”

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