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.