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Legislative leaders at odds over top priorities

House Speaker, Senate President disagree on best moves for state

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s lawmakers return to the Capitol on Monday for committee meetings leading up to this year’s annual session.

It brings two new legislative leaders with different priorities, which could lead to an impasse weeks and months from now, because the money that usually greases legislative compromise just isn’t there this year.

Recently elevated House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron have a lot in common. Both are lawyers. Both are conservative Republicans. But the men have different priorities about how government should work and what it should do.

“You have to be true to your principles, and one principle we hold to is that nothing lifts more people out of poverty than our free market system,” said Corcoran, R-Pasco County.

Corcoran wants to end the governor’s top priority of giving grants to companies who promise more jobs.

“The way you make your state attractive to people is you have the No. 1 education system in the state,” Corcoran said. You have the best infrastructure. You have the lowest regulations. You have the lowest taxing part. You have the safest state in the union.”

But Negron, R-Stuart, is not willing to throw out all subsidies. Yet.

“I have a vision that Florida’s universities will be national, elite, destination universities,” he said.

He wants to pump a billion dollars more into higher education.

“Let’s make our good universities great,” Negron said.

Florida’s treasury has a billion dollars more than it had a year ago, but the problem is all that money is committed to previous programs.

Negron isn’t giving up, and believes money can be found to make both leaders happy.

“In an $82 billion budget, if you decided to move just 5 percent around, that’s $4 billion,” Negron said.

But shuffling $4 billion means job changes or programs ended. That will create $4 billion worth of push back, but both new leaders, like president-elect Donald Trump, offer something different than the status quo.

As far as the House Speaker is concerned, all subsidies, including those going to tourism and sports organizations, are on the cutting block. The Senate President would start improving universities with better funding for colleges of law, medicine and other professional schools.