Florida Governor Rick Scott, legislative leaders lay out budget priorities at start of session

Jan 10, 2012

The following article was published in The Florida Current on January 10, 2012:

Governor, legislature leaders lay out budget priorities at start of session

By Travis Pillow and Gray Rohrer

Gov. Rick Scott sent a message of cooperation in his second State of the State speech that marked the start of the 2012 legislative session, but also said that there is one issue on which he won’t back down.

“As you know, my recommended budget includes $1 billion in new state funding for education. And I ask you to please consider that recommendation very carefully. On this point, I just cannot budge,” Scott told lawmakers who gathered Tuesday in joint session to hear the speech in the House of Representatives chamber.

Asked by Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West, whether the governor’s insistance constitutes a veto threat, Scott budget director Jerry McDaniel told the House Appropriations Committee he could not speculate, but did say the governor is demanding a “significant increase” in the state’s share of funding.

His general approach has been greeted warmly by some of the Senate’s Republican leaders, who for years have been trying to cut spending on health care to free up money for schools. “I really like that the governor is supporting the traditional position of the Senate,” Senate Budget Committee chairman JD Alexander said.

Still, the Lake Wales Republican echoed concerns voiced by Senate President Mike Haridopolos in his opening-day speech that looming events in the economy still could cloud the state revenue for the upcoming fiscal year. Haridopolos asked other members of his chamber for input on when they should prepare their final budget vote.

“Back in November, I let it be known that I have grave concerns about the realities of the revenue estimating conference. As I enter my 12th session I know that those estimates are not always quite accurate,” the Merritt Island Republican said. 

In his speech, House Speaker Dean Cannon emphasized lawmakers’ constitutional duty to pass a balanced budget and his confidence that it would get done on schedule.

“It’s my intention that this house work with our colleagues in the Senate to complete the budget during the scheduled 60 days of regular session,” Cannon said. 

Haridopolos said the Senate already has begun looking for places to make cuts, which could set the stage for passing the budget on time. He added, though, that he will be among those closely watching the state’s new general revenue estimates, which are due out on Thursday.

“My fervent wish is to get out of here in 60 days, but we’re going to do it right,” he said.

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