Budget conference: Negotiations this year are all about member projects
Sam Garrison .

'When you're negotiating a budget, to not have projects makes it challenging for us to do some of the other things that we're trying to do to move forward.'

Forget the big picture. This year, at least, it’s the details that matter when it comes to finalizing budget negotiations.

House and Senate budget Chairs are expected to meet all weekend in an effort to put the finishing touches on a budget that could exceed $117 billion when it’s all said and done.

Unlike in years past when, say, an item like Medicaid expansion derailed resolution of the annual budget bill, a lot of the decisions left to be made revolve around projects and items that lawmakers are seeking to take home to their districts during an election year.

Rep. Tom Leek, the House Appropriations Committee Chair, and Sen. Doug Broxson, the Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, met on Saturday morning. There, the offer from the House on state administration and technology showed more than two dozen projects that remained unresolved in just that portion of the budget. There were also more than 60 education projects where final funding amounts were up in the air in the House offer on school funding made Friday evening.

Many projects seeking funding are relatively small when compared to the overall size of the budget. The projects range widely in amounts, from $100,000 being sought to help save dogs from euthanasia in Polk County to $5 million to build a gym for Jacksonville Classical Academy.

Yet it’s these spending buckets that legislators spend a lot of time working on in the waning moments of the Session as they — as well as paid lobbyists — try to convince House and Senate leaders to fund these smaller projects.

The tug-of-war over projects caused House and Senate health care budget negotiators to end their conference meetings relatively quickly as it became apparent that the two sides had a wide divergence over funding.

Rep. Sam Garrison, the Chair of the House Health Care Appropriations subcommittee, made it clear how it all fit together at a meeting earlier this week.

“I had a good good friend of mine in the upper chamber from years ago who told me that, ‘You know, everything’s related to everything.’ So when you’re negotiating a budget, to not have projects makes it challenging for us to do some of the other things that we’re trying to do to move forward,” Garrison said.

“So with that understanding, I’m afraid, unfortunately, we are at a bump in the road, and we have a situation where we are going to have to bump the remainder of the budget now.”

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.

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