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Florida House speaker: No guarantee of on-time finish

April 22, 2011
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

TALLAHASSEE (AP) - Florida's two legislative chambers have made little progress toward resolving their budgetary differences, leading House Speaker Dean Cannon to say he can't guarantee an on-time finish with just two weeks left in the annual session.

Gov. Rick Scott, meanwhile, reiterated Friday that he's confident the Legislature will begin cutting Florida's corporate income tax although that's in neither chamber's budget bill.

Cannon, R-Winter Park, said he's optimistic lawmakers won't need a special session to finish the budget but that "anything's possible."

The Legislature could extend the session beyond its scheduled May 6 conclusion or Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, could jointly call a special session.

"It's more important that we do it right than get hung up on a 60-day time limit," Cannon said after the House finished an abbreviated two-day holiday work week Thursday.

The Senate took the entire week off for Passover and Easter, but budget leaders from both chambers spoke behind the scenes without agreeing on preliminary issues.

"It's progress, but we're not there yet," Cannon said.

The House's $66.5 billion budget is about $4 billion less than the Senate's, but much of that gap is due to accounting differences. The Senate, for instance, includes the five regional water management districts and 67 county court clerks' offices in the state budget while the House does not.

Both cut nearly $4 billion in spending because the state's income from taxes and fees hasn't kept up with the growing demand for and cost of services.

Also, both chambers plan on raising revenue by increasing college and/or university tuition as well as what amounts to pay cuts for teachers and state employees. They'd be required to begin contributing to the Florida Retirement System that's now fully supported by taxpayers.

Once leaders agree on a bottom line and allocations for different sections of the budget, conference committees can begin meeting to resolve differences within each of those categories, including education, transportation and health care.

As for Scott's corporate tax cut, Cannon said the Legislature's first job is to pass a balanced budget. Once that's done lawmakers can respond to the governor's proposal, he said.

Scott has proposed $1.7 billion in various tax and fee reductions, including motor vehicle license fees, school property taxes and the corporate tax.

"I don't have reason to believe that we won't be able to propose something that he will find acceptable, but that'll be up to him," Cannon said.

In prior comments, Cannon noted he had received no requests to reduce the corporate tax from Florida CEOs but they have asked for property tax cuts.

Scott has been advocating a phase-out over several years of the 5.5 percent corporate tax to help create jobs by making Florida friendlier to business.

In his weekly radio address last week, Scott said he wouldn't sign a state budget without a corporate tax reduction. On Friday, though, he declined to say if he would he would veto such a budget.

"We have the most fiscally conservative Legislature in history so I'm very confident we'll end up with the beginning of phasing out the corporate tax," Scott said.

 
 

 

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