Last night, I tweeted a .gif about Senator Anitere Flores and how capitol insiders are not surprised that it is the portion of the budget that she helps write that is forcing the Legislature into overtime.
It was an easy, lazy criticism of Flores. Of course health care spending, specifically hospital spending, is what’s holding up the budget. It’s 33 percent of the overall budget – by far the largest component of state spending.
I regret tweeting about Flores, not only because the tweet was unnecessary or mean, but because it’s reinforcing what is a false narrative: that payments to Florida’s hospitals are at the crux of the budget impasse.
Yes, that’s what’s being reported.
Yes, that’s what the budget writers are saying.
But that’s not what’s really holding up the budget.
What’s holding up the budget are the politics of Parkland.
Thanks to Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, we know this morning that at least $10 million in House member projects that the House and Senate had agreed to have now been pulled from the emerging bicameral budget proposal.
But those defunded projects are just the tip of the iceberg.
One lobbyist who specializes in successfully navigating the appropriations process told me late Tuesday night that it was very odd that documents and spreadsheets listing closed out items from non-health care sections of the budget were not being made public.
Would Richard Corcoran and his lieutenants even be in a position to pass SB 7026 if the budget were settled?
“It’s my belief the two things [the budget and the gun bill] are being viewed together,” one Republican House member told Dixon.
Another lobbyist familiar with the back-and-forth between House and Senate budget writers said that “very reasonable” offers from the Senate have been turned down by the House, which this lobbyist believes is using the budget as the ultimate carrot and stick to House members on the fence about supporting the $400 million package assembled in response to the shooting.
It’s legislative politics 101 that the moment a budget deal is reached, the Speaker – even a powerful one like Corcoran – loses some of his leverage over his colleagues.
Seth McKeel, who served as the House’s budget chief under Will Weatherford, once explained to me that during his last session, he sought to pass a local transportation amendment that was important to the folks back home. He had forgotten to deal with it before he finalized the budget. He ended up filing the amendment on a transportation bill the day after the budget was printed, but had to withdraw it because he couldn’t get the votes. He said that had he filed the amendment the day before the budget was completed, it would have been a lay-up getting it passed.
That was an amendment to a transportation bill. A minor issue.
The gun violence package is the highest profile issue that many members will ever face. It’s opposed by the all-powerful NRA. So it’s no wonder, possibly even commendable, that Corcoran is using every advantage at his disposal to get the bill passed.
But let’s stop blaming the hospitals — and certain lawmakers — for the budget impasse.