Lawmakers hit snag in budget negotiations


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It was a day of ups and downs in the state Capitol as lawmakers continued budget negotiations. Issues like prison funding grew closer to resolution while talks over economic development blew up.

When budget talks hit a snag at the sub-committee level like they did Monday, the troublesome issues are traditionally "bumped up" to the full appropriations chairmen. That's expected to happen Tuesday.

Already in the works before the New York prison escape, lawmakers agreed to hire an outside expert to advise the system on security.

"Do I feel the Department of Corrections is secure? Yes," Sen. Greg Evers said. "The reason for the outside expert is to be sure we're spending our money wisely."

But that's where playing nice ended.

"To get side swiped, like you've done this morning, to me, is not a good measure of respect," Sen. Jack Latvala said.

Latvala abruptly ended negotiations with House counterparts when they tried to pump millions into economic development.

"The governor just bailed in with the House on the health care fight, didn't he? Maybe this is his reward," Latvala said.

Despite the dust up, Senate President Andy Gardiner expected the funding to get worked out.

"I have a tremendous amount of confidence that cooler heads will prevail. We'll see what they come back with," Gardiner said.

Eleven days remain for lawmakers to work out the details. If they fail, they'll have a 10-day cushion before the budget runs out on June 30.

When News4Jax asked Senate Budget Chairman Tom Lee if he saw any pitfalls to a budget deal being worked out, his response was to the point.

"No. No," he said.

"You're confident?" News4Jax asked.

"Yes," he said.

Tax cuts and school funding sought by the governor will be far less than he wants, and with his veto pen, he has the final say.