Disagreement over a $200 million cut to higher education is keeping House and Senate budget chiefs from starting to negotiate the state’s $70 billion spending plan, Senate budget chief JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, told his chamber this morning.
The stalled budget pre-talks opened the door for lawmakers to run out of time without passing a state budget before the session ends next Friday.
“The last 24 hours or so has not been as constructive as we had hoped,” Alexander said, adding that he and his House counterpart Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, “made a lot of progress” since Friday.
Republicans and Democrats agreed the Senate should hold firm on the higher education cuts, even it means coming back for a special session to deal with the budget.
The hang-up is a $300 million cut to higher education. The Senate backed off from a one-time, $400 million sweep of universities reserves, settling for $300 million. But the House wants $200 million of that to be a permanent reduction for higher ed.
That’s unacceptable, Alexander said before the morning floor session ended.
“We are holding our position there and we did deliver an offer to them at 7 p.m. yesterday,” Alexander said.
Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, D-Weston, backed up Alexander, saying she and her caucus “would be willing to stay here as long as it took.”
Senate President-designate Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, agreed.
“I’ll stay here for a Tallahassee springtime in order to make sure we get the right budget, the right way, for the people of Florida,” Gaetz said.
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, part of a coalition of moderate Republicans, also gave his support.
“In this particular year there’s no rush to have to get out of here by a certain date. We know we have some responsibilities after session with redistricting anyway,” Latvala said.