Senate President Joe Negron insisted Thursday, for the second time in as many days, that he emphatically was not party to any deal between Gov. Rick Scott and the House over public education spending and economic incentives.
Any suggestion otherwise, Negron told reporters following the day’s Senate session, is a “false narrative.”
There is evidence, he said — absence of reference to him in the governor’s special session proclamation, and of any quote from a press release announcing the session.
He said early drafts of those documents would back him up, but his office hadn’t produced them Thursday evening.
He’d asked not to be included, lest it be mistaken as an endorsement, although he did attend a June 2 news conference announcing the special session call.
“I hear this false narrative by some that, somehow, the Senate is not keeping its end of the deal,” Negron said.
“We all care about our reputation. Our word is our bond. I think the evidence is indisputable — and it makes perfect sense — that the governor and the speaker have resolved a conflict. But they can’t resolve that conflict by using the Senate priorities to make that happen.”
Negron stressed that the major disagreements during the regular session were between Scott and the House. The Senate sided with Scott on funding for Enterprise Florida Inc. and Visit Florida, over determined opposition in the House.
“Now the House has decided to give the governor every single dollar he has demanded for EFI, every single dollar for Visit Florida. And they’ve decided we’ll go ahead and do the $215 more for FEFP (public schools) — which is less than what the Senate had agreed to do in our budget,” Negron said.
“That’s the conflict. That’s why we’re here. We’re not here because of the Senate.”
House Speaker Richard Corcoran is on record to the effect that Negron “did not stick to the plan.”
Negron objected that Scott’s line item vetoes favored House projects over the Senate’s by a 2-1 margin.
Among the first things the Senate did upon convening Wednesday morning was to override Scott’s veto of the schools budget and $75 million in higher education projects. Boosting higher education has been a key Senate priority.
Additionally, the Senate is bent on reducing cuts to Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals by $100 million.
“We’re not just going to rubberstamp an agreement the two parties made without our priorities being taken into account,” Negron said.
“The good news is, we can be out of here by 2:30 or 3 o’clock tomorrow. It’s real simple. We fund the Senate priorities in higher education. We make sure the Senate’s views are respected as part of the negotiation. We look at hospital funding, which is important to the Senate. I’m open to discussing how we get there. And we still have reserves that exceed the current reserves that we have now,” he said.
“That’s what it’s going to take. But the Senate is united on not simply ratify an agreement that we weren’t part of.”
Negron spokeswoman Katie Betta said a Scott aide had shown her drafts of the proclamation and press release on a tablet computer. The proclaimation lacked Negron’s name, and she asked the aide to remove references to the president.