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Florida's annual budget battle set to begin

'I actually kind of like how we're lined up,' House Speaker Chris Sprowls says
Posted at 6:55 PM, Apr 08, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida's budget battle is set to begin.

The House on Thursday afternoon passed its spending plan for the next fiscal year 104-14.

Lawmakers there are looking to spend $97 billion. It comes after Senators passed a$95 billion plan Wednesday. The governor made a $96.6 billion proposal, earlier this year.

The two chambers will now need to reconcile their budgets, while taking into account the requests of Gov. Ron DeSantis, in conferences expected to last the rest of the lawmaking session.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, was optimistic ahead of the pending negotiations.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls
House Speaker Chris Sprowls believes the bills in the House and Senate aren't substantially different.

"I actually kind of like how we're lined up with the Senate. The differences are not that stark," Sprowls said. "As we get in that position to negotiate with them, I think we’re in a good spot to do that."

Both chambers plan to continue boosting starting teacher pay and have extensive infrastructure plans. They also make similar cuts to Medicaid payments for hospitals (House $288M / Senate $251M), affordable housing programs (House $223M / Senate $223M), and public universities (House $556M / Senate $217M).

Some Democrats have taken issue with the budgets lacking an expansion to Medicaid. Others said neither version does enough to help pandemic victims.

"What I’m looking at here doesn't look to be a pandemic budget," State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Winter Park said. "Cuts to hospitals -- safety-net hospitals -- during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic? It doesn't make sense."

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith
State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith spoke against the spending plan approved in the House.

The plans have plenty of differences, including per-student funding for schools. The House wants an about $181 boost while the Senate looks to maintain.

The upper chamber also wants to increase state workers' minimum wages to $13 an hour.

Another big difference between the chambers is how to use about $10 billion in federal relief funds.

The House has already scattered them across its budget. The Senate is holding off for now.

But before the final gavel drops, anything could change.