Rep. Seth McKeel tapped as next Appropriations Chair in the Florida House

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Representative Seth McKeel will oversee the House’s writing of its budget in the coming year, incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford announced Tuesday, reports David Royse of the News Service of Florida.

McKeel, R-Lakeland, has been in the House since 2006 and served on the Appropriations Committee. He has been chairman of the State Affairs Committee in the most recent two years and was deputy majority leader in 2009-2010.

McKeel, 37, is vice president of Lakeland Properties and Management, his family’s real estate management company.

“Seth’s expertise and background as a small business owner, a former Lakeland City Commissioner and the previous Chairman of the House State Affairs Committee will prove to be invaluable as we manage our state’s future budget priorities,” Weatherford said in a memo to House members Tuesday.  “Rep. McKeel has demonstrated a commitment to putting the priorities of our state over his own interests and will serve the House well as we develop an appropriations plan in the coming months.”

Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz is yet to name a Budget Committee chairman – a spokeswoman said it would be after the election.

Weatherford officially becomes speaker in November, assuming Republicans maintain control of the House, which they’re widely expected to easily do. Weatherford has no opposition in the November election, but McKeel does.

He’s running against no party candidate Lillian Lima in House District 40 in western Polk County, including Lakeland. It also includes the communities of Orangewood, Winston and Lakeland Heights.

While McKeel won’t face as dire a budget picture at the outset of his term as recent top legislative budget writers, he still faces a difficult task over the two year period in which he would be the House chairman.

State economists said last month that the tax dollars coming in are expected to exceed projected budget needs by about $71 million, though that’s hardly a large cushion in a roughly $70 billion budget. Still, lawmakers are looking at the possibility of beginning the year without being in a shortfall at the outset – the first time in years that’s been the case.

Several lawmakers have said they have concerns about Medicaid cost growth, and low growth in pension investment return.

“The constitutional responsibility to pass a balanced budget and the public duty to fund the basic needs of our state will take every ounce of thoughtful, principled, and serious effort,” Weatherford said.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.