House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo did not appear especially intimidated by Gov. Rick Scott’s tough talk on the state budget Thursday evening.
That $200 million Scott seeks to repair the Herbert Hoover Dike, for example? Not likely.
“That showed up about a week ago, and we’d already gone a far way down the road as far as crafting our budget,” Trujillo told reporters.
“It’s something I wish had been included in the original budget, and its something I wish we would have had an opportunity to discuss and debate early on as we crafted our own budgets,” he said.
“I think there’s merit in doing it. I don’t there’s merit in ever lending the federal government $200 million that they should be responsible for.”
Trujillo sees no need to build a veto-proof majority.
“We just have to pass a budget. If he vetoes it or he doesn’t veto it, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
He believes House Democrats “have had a meaningful seat at the table the entire time,” and have supported key House spending priorities.
“You look at our House budget — in committee, only two Democrats voted against it. On the floor, we had a substantial amount of Democrats vote for it — much more than a veto-proof majority.”
Scott all but demanded his way on his own priorities — also including boosting Visit Florida’s funding to $100 million, and providing business incentives money for Enterprise Florida.
The House-Senate budget deal provides about $25 million for Visit Florida and no incentives money for Enterprise Florida, although that agency would be allowed to live.
Scott figures the Legislature can afford his projects because of the $1.5 billion in Low Income Pool, or LIP, money promised by the Trump administration to reimburse hospitals for charity care.
Neither of the House or Senate plan on spending close to that amount for the care. Still, Trujillo was reluctant to spend the federal money before it’s in hand.
“We’re still waiting for the terms and conditions before we can figure out how much we can actually use,” he said.
“We are including the money, but it’s outside of the budget. We will appropriate it depending on the terms and conditions” imposed by the Trump administration. He was still negotiating how to handle the matter with Senate budget chief Jack Latvala.
Regarding Lake Okeechobee, the House does plan to take up SB 10, Senate President Joe Negron’s $1.5 billion restoration plan, which would not pay for the repairs to the dike around the lake.
“We’re making a lot of progress in getting that passed in our chamber,” Trujillo said of the overall Lake O plan. “I don’t know if we’ve agreed to bond, but we’ve agreed in concept to the policy.”