A cordial House reception for Scott’s budget, despite off-stage rancor

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The House Appropriations Committee gave a respectful reception Tuesday to Gov. Rick Scott’s $83.5 billion state budget Tuesday, with chairman Carlos Trujillo praising the spending plan as “conservative.”

“It’s a very fair budget,” Trujillo told reporters following the meeting. “It was balanced. Some different priorities than we’ve expressed here in the House. But, overall, I think it was very fair, very reasonable, and very well put together.”

Of proposed legislation that would spike Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida — two of Scott’s top priorities — Trujillo said a hearing Wednesday before the Careers and Competition Subcommittee would be telling.

“If the bill goes down in flames tomorrow in committee, we know there’s probably not an appetite for the membership. But if that’s not the case, the appropriations will follow the policy,” Trujillo said.

“I’m assuming it will be reported favorably,” he said.

Asked whether he could recall a time when a proposed committee bill favored by a speaker did not pass, Trujillo had a quick reply.

“Stand your ground, last year in my criminal justice committee.”

The debate over those economic- and tourism-development programs has grown heated, with Scott Tuesday suggesting the bill was motivated by House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s desire to run for higher office.

Informed of the governor’s remarks, Trujillo said: “I would disagree with his comments.”

Regarding the overall budget, Cynthia Kelly, Scott’s top budget aide, briefed the committee on Scott’s plan and answered questions. Several members asked about Scott’s proposal to leave local property tax levels at existing levels, to capture rising property values for schools.

House leaders want to lower that tax rate, to keep tax levels more or less even.

“We do not consider that a tax increase,” Kelly said of the governor’s proposal. “If the rate had been adjusted, that would be different. But as long as the rate is held constant, it is not considered a tax increase.”

House budget subcommittees were to begin hammering out the House’s own spending plan during hearings scheduled for Wednesday.

Michael Moline

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.


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