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Budget Dispute Could Keep Florida Legislature Overtime

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Florida Legislature. (Source: AP)

Florida Legislature. (Source: AP)

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Legislative Session Coverage

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Florida budget negotiations have stalled in Tallahassee which means state lawmakers may not end their annual session on time.

The House budget chief said Tuesday that budget negotiations with the Senate have ground to a halt in the last 24 hours.

Both the House and Senate have passed rival versions of a new budget, but there are significant differences in areas such as money for roads and colleges.

Rep. Denise Grimsley said she did not know why negotiations have come to a standstill, but she appeared to point to Senate President Mike Haridopolos as the cause of the delays, though she did not mention Haridopolos by name.

“I’m assuming the delays are coming from the fourth floor,” she said of the part of the Capitol that houses the president’s office.

In response to Grimsley’s comments, Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said the chambers are at an impasse over higher education cuts.

Specifically, the Senate has proposed $300 million in non-recurring cuts. The House position is also to cut $300 million in higher education, but $200 million of that would be recurring cuts.

“I don’t think you would be comfortable with that level of recurring cuts,” Alexander told members Tuesday. Senate leaders including Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner and Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich. said they are ready to extend the session or come back to deal with budget issues if needed to hold firm on the higher education changes.

“I will stay here for a Tallahassee springtime,” said incoming Senate President Don Gaetz.

Legislators have just seven days left to bridge all the gaps in order to end the session by March 9. That’s because state law requires the final version of the budget to sit on lawmakers desks for 72 hours before a final vote.

“The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.”

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