Budget negotiations between Negron and McKeel begin

in Uncategorized by

The last phases of negotiations over the state’s $74 billion spending plan began playing out Tuesday as the House and Senate budget chiefs met briefly to formally begin their part of the talks, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

After several days of meetings by conference committees dealing with different areas of the budget, Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron and House Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel faced the need to resolve tricky issues where compromise has so far proven elusive.

The chambers still need to agree on how to divide $480 million for teacher pay raises; other factors that drive how the state divvies up money among public school districts; conflicts over whether university students should face tuition increases; a complex new formula for reimbursing hospitals under the Medicaid program for low-income Floridians; and a slew of smaller items in the budget, including how much to spend on restoring the Everglades.

Still, lawmakers say they’re encouraged by how much has already been agreed to.

“If you look at the entire $70-plus billion budget, the majority of the issues have been resolved,” Negron told reporters after meeting with McKeel.

Also looming over the talks was a question of whether other issues, like a campaign-finance overhaul and competing plans to revamp the pension plan for public employees, would enter into the talks as legislative leaders tried to use the spending plan for leverage on other disagreements.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, did not entirely dismiss the possibility that any one part of the legislative process could affect another.

“But for the most part, I think you’ll see the budget being negotiated within the budget,” he said.

Because of rules laying out how long lawmakers have to consider the budget, an agreement needs to be reached by next Tuesday. If Negron and McKeel are unable to strike a deal by later this week, Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, will step in.

“I really anticipate very little getting to us,” Weatherford said. “I hope so.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.