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Negotiators Inch Closer To Budget Agreement

Nick Evans

The Florida Legislature is cramming some its largest and thorniest spending issues into the final days for the legislative session.  House leaders are calling this year’s budget the most open and transparent in history, but just as they have in previous years, leaders are slipping some pork in at the last minute.

UPDATE 08:10 p.m.:

Senate budget chief Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) drew a line in the sand Thursday evening.

"I just want to repeat for everyone to hear it one more time," Latvala told lawmakers, "the budget is closed.  Should be on the desk first thing tomorrow morning."

"No more.  No more.  The budget is closed."

For the most part he's right.  Staffers will clean upcross the Ts and dot the Isbut the substantive work is done.  At the final hearing Senators added in three further supplemental funding projects: an equestrian facility in Aracadia, canal improvements in Florida City and money for an organization serving seniors in Little Havana.

The negotiators also finished their work on changes to the state retirement system.  The changes mean most state workers will now default into an investment plan rather than a pension plan, but they'll have 9 months to opt into the plan of their choice.  Workers in high-risk jobs like police officers and firefighters will continue defaulting into the pension plan. 

In it's first budget conference hearing Thursday, negotiators closed out numerous budget silos but a number of big ticket areas of the spending plan remain unresolved.