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House PR machine turns to its version of state budget

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The House of Representatives has released a new “explainer” video to explain its proposed 2017-18 state budget. And—fun!—it’s a cartoon. “Don’t have time to read hundreds of pages?” it starts. “That’s OK, because we’ve got the Florida House budget in under a few minutes.” The nearly three-minute video explains that the House, led by Speaker Richard Corcoran, proposes no new taxes and adds another $25,000 on top of the state’s homestead exemption for property tax. The House also “cuts pork…

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DEP responds to House records request, defends payment of legal bills

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The state’s Department of Environmental Protection on Friday night released its response to the House of Representatives’ request for documentation of the legal billing in a longstanding river water use fight against Georgia. Interim DEP Secretary Ryan Matthews also sent a letter, saying his agency had “denied more than $3 million in expenses and hourly charges submitted by outside counsel.” A cursory review of the records shows not only invoices for legal fees but also, for example, a $272,000 contract between DEP…

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Richard Corcoran: House won’t OK legal money for DEP

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House Speaker Richard Corcoran late Monday said his chamber won’t agree to hand over any more money for the Department of Environmental Protection to pay its legal bills until the agency gives a full accounting of what’s already been spent. Corcoran was reacting to the DEP’s request to the Joint Legislative Budget Commission for an additional $13 million to pay outside legal counsel in an ongoing court fight between Georgia and Florida over water use. (Earlier story here.) The commission is scheduled to take up the request Tuesday. Coincidentally,…

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“Water war” could cost the state another $13M in legal fees

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water use

The state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has busted its outside legal expenses budget over the ongoing ‘water war’ between Georgia and Florida, legislative records show. It’s asking for an additional $13 million from the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, which meets Tuesday — and even that may not be enough. Gov. Rick Scott‘s office approved the request to the commission, made up of House and Senate members, for “litigation costs.” “This increase is necessary to meet projected expenditures for outside counsel as…

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Senate and House not that different, Joe Negron says

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Senate President Joe Negron said his approach to budgeting isn’t that different from fellow Republican and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Negron met with reporters Tuesday after he officially became president during the Legislature’s biennial Organization Session. In sweeping changes to the House’s traditional way of doing business, Corcoran said senators would need House sponsors for special spending requests, such as hometown projects, often derided as “turkeys.” But Negron, who along with Corcoran is a former Appropriations chair, said he “would encourage senators…

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Freshman state senators learn the ropes in Tallahassee

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Newcomers to the Florida Senate were met with a dose of reality Tuesday, in the form of a warning about the state’s iffy revenue forecasts. They also got a dose of optimism from Jeff Atwater, the state’s chief financial officer, who told them Florida is in relatively good shape compared to other big states like California, New York, and Illinois. Between 2009 and 2014, 31 states raised taxes by more than $100 per capita, 26 raised debt, and 18 did…

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Lawmakers get grim budget news for next year

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Florida is likely to basically break even next year in terms of its state budget, lawmakers heard Monday. The Joint Legislative Budget Commission met in the Capitol to hear the latest financial outlook for 2017-18: Present income and outgo estimates leave Florida with a relatively scanty $7.5 million left over out of about $32.2 billion in available revenue. The current year’s budget is roughly $82 billion, for example, after Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a total of $256 million in spending. Roughly two-thirds of the yearly…

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