Separated by nearly $1 billion in spending and differences over everything from tax cuts to health care spending, the Florida Legislature has less than a month left in its regular session to reach a deal on a new state budget.
Although Republican legislators stress they won’t have a repeat of infighting that marred their negotiations last year, they conceded that it will require some major compromises to end the session by March 11. The final decision on the state budget could wind up affecting everything from how much money teachers get in the coming year to whether the state has a back-to-school sales tax holiday this summer.
“Now is the time where the pressure points, the decision points, are here,” said Senate President Andy Gardiner, an Orlando Republican. “There are going to be some tough decisions. There will be stuff that won’t make it.”
Last year GOP legislators split over Medicaid expansion and wound up passing a budget just days before a potential state government shutdown.
Both the House and Senate on Thursday passed their rival spending plans. The Senate budget totals nearly $81 billion, while the House version is just under $80 billion. And though portions of both budgets are aligned, fault lines exist on school spending, economic development and tax cuts. Both sides also have refused to endorse key parts of Gov. Rick Scott’s budget recommendations, which could complicate a final resolution.