Clock runs out on state budget talks: session headed to overtime

by | Mar 9, 2022

TALLAHASSEE — With a budget remaining unfinished Tuesday night, the annual legislative session is headed to overtime.

Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, issued a memo shortly before 9 p.m. that said budget talks would continue Wednesday.

State law requires a 72-hour “cooling off” period before lawmakers can vote on the budget. That means the budget needed to be finished Tuesday for the session to end as scheduled Friday.

“When the budget is on the desk, and the 72-hour clock has started, we can determine the specific timeline for a concurrent resolution to extend session to vote on the budget and related bills,” the memo said. “Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work together to meet our constitutional obligation to pass a balanced budget for our state.”

Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and House Appropriations Chairman Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, held two public meetings earlier in the day to try to bridge differences on the budget. They did not meet Tuesday night.

“Chairs Trumbull and Stargel have made tremendous progress and continue to work toward reconciling minor outstanding budget issues at a steady pace,” the memo said. “Meanwhile staff are working to input and proof the conference report (the budget).”

“Notwithstanding the tremendous efforts of all involved, we are coming up against the 72-hour mark,” the memo continued. “Rather than hold important public conference meetings unreasonably late into the night, we have asked Chairs Trumbull and Stargel to notice a meeting for tomorrow.”

The announcement came as the House held a marathon floor session that included taking up high-profile bills on issues such as immigration and elections. While the memo indicated a decision had not been made about how the session extension would be handled, options could include meeting Saturday or coming back next week.

Also, lawmakers face the possibility of having to meet again at some point to work on a congressional redistricting plan. The House and Senate have passed a plan, but Gov. Ron DeSantis has threatened to veto it. A map needs to be finalized before a June qualifying period for the November elections.

Lawmakers are expected to ultimately agree on a budget that will top $100 billion for the fiscal year that will start July 1. The scheduled 60-day session started Jan. 11.

As of Tuesday afternoon, talks continued over issues involving public schools, higher education and agriculture and natural resources, including gaps in spending over resiliency projects and land preservation. At that time, Trumbull still held out hope that the budget could be finished Tuesday.

“Our goal was same as it was this morning, is to do everything we possibly can to get done today,” Trumbull said. “You know, our staffs (are) working crazy amounts of hours. I’m super, super appreciative of all of that. So hopefully, we can get there. And we’ll just kind of see how it progresses.”

— News Service staff writers Jim Turner and Ryan Dailey contributed to this report.


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