The 2015 Legislative Budget Process: In Song

Apr 10, 2015

In happier times: House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (l) and Sen. President Andy Gardiner (r).
Credit Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

The 2015 Florida lawmaking session is getting down to its final weeks, and the stalemate between the Florida House and Senate continues.  It’s said music reflects the mood of the time and there are a lot of correlations between the legislative climate and the soundtracks of life.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli addressed the ongoing problems between the House and Senate Wednesday night, with Disney’s "Frozen" theme song playing in the background.

“We had some conceptual agreements early on, and some of that is changing what those agreements are," he said.

Apparently the House really likes the Frozen song. It played again Thursday after representatives concluded their house session.

It’s an apt metaphor for the chilly relationship between the House and Senate over Medicaid. At issue is disagreement over whether to use federal money to insure up to a million more low income Floridians. The Senate wants to go for it. The House says no.

“They want us to come dance? We’re not dancing. We’re not dancing this session, we’re not dancing next session, we’re not dancing next summer. We’re not dancing," Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran told the House during a recent debate over the chamber's budget proposal.

Even Governor Rick Scott says he's opposed to a Medicaid expansion. But there’s more than just healthcare funding at stake.

The House has prepared a nearly $700 million tax cut package. It really wants those tax cuts. But the Senate? That’s a take-it-or leave it proposition, and could be a possible bargaining chip, if the two chambers ever get to budget talks.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are getting closer to agreeing on environmental issues. But a pricey land buy South of Lake Okeechobee that buffers the Everglades could be in trouble. And even the quintessentially Florida sound of Jimmy Buffett may not be able to save the U.S. Sugar land deal. While there’s still some talk about getting money to buy the land, nothing has materialized.

“We want to preserve our water, and we want to save the swamp, and we want to have a future for our children in Florida like the one we've lived so far.  let’s change some latitudes and let's change some attitudes," Buffett said, referencing his song during a recent Everglades rally at the Capitol.

There are some settled issues however. There won’t be any changes to Florida’s pension system. And a big gaming overhaul is off the table. some hope—it may get to keep its exclusive gaming compact with the state a little longer. Still—healthcare funding, as Senate President Andy Gardiner notes, will determine everything else.

“If we’re going to be asked to pass a budget with extra funding for member projects, education and taxes, there needs to be clarity on LIP. There has to be.”

Still, time is running out for lawmakers to reach an overall deal on how to fund the state for the upcoming fiscal year. And right now, as Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, points out—it doesn’t look good.

“Let me state the obvious. I’m pretty good at that. We have not received allocations, and we are not negotiating with our friends in the house," he said.

And the legislative limbo continues.