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Florida lawmakers ready to reach an agreement on budget

Roger Caldwell

Roger Caldwell

Florida lawmakers ready to reach an agreement on budget

By Roger Caldwell

      Florida lawmakers are getting ready to start their second week in their special session, and they say they have struck agreement on the overall shape of a spending plan for the budget. Even though, the House was in the process of killing the Senate’s Florida Health Insurance Exchange (FHIX), everything was going great from Senate President, Andy Gardiner’s (R-Orlando) point of view. A couple of week ago, the two Houses were not talking to each other, calling each other derogatory names, but now they look forward to working together.

“While today’s debate is over and votes have been cast, the critical healthcare challenges facing Florida still remain. We appreciate the spirited debate of our colleagues in the House and look forward to working together over the next two weeks to complete a balanced budget for our state,” says Andy Gardiner.

Florida politics is a strange game, because there are never any permanent friends or permanent enemies. No one knows what has transpired in the last two weeks, but Senate President Andy Gardiner is ready to build a state budget without the $2.8 billion in federal money the state would receive if FHIX was approved.

When the last session ended abruptly during the spring, the two Houses needed four billion dollars to create a balanced budget. But, something has changed and now the two Houses are saying that they are close to agreeing on a framework for a balanced budget. The Senate leadership at this point is not offering any details of how dollars are being distributed, but the work is getting done.

During the second week of the session, the Legislature will begin budget conferences, to patch together an agreement, which everyone can live with. They will take millions of dollars and determine where limited resources will be appropriated and delegated. Since the House has decided to kill the Senate’s FHIX Program, there are fewer funds to work with, and appropriate to health care, roads, education, environment and countless other priorities.

Sometimes, it is better not to cry over spilled milk, because the clock keeps ticking, and time is being wasted. Maybe, Andy Gar-diner is right, and fighting Governor Scott and the Florida House is a waste of time. The Speaker of the House Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) is not going to change his position, and Florida needs a budget to run efficiently.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, (R-Brandon) and House Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran (R-Land O’ Lakes) will start working on any unresolved issues, and big ticket items for the budget. “Our job is to keep our eye on the people of Florida, not on a score sheet on whether or not the House or Senate wins,” says Andy Gardiner.

There are 14 days left in the special session, and health care spending, education, a tax package, and land and water issues must be ironed out. Floridians are hoping that at the end of the special session they can be proud of their legislators. They were voted in, and sent to Tallahassee to do a job, and no one wants the government to shut down, because our lawmakers could not agree on a budget.

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