Senate TED committee restless, Benacquisto says she’s listening

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The chairwoman of the Senate budget committee that deals with transportation and economic development issues said Wednesday evening that she will take into account members’ concerns about the budget, concerns panel members continued to express at the committee’s evening meeting, reports the News Service of Florida. Several members of the Transportation and Economic Development Budget Subcommittee expressed a desire for particular changes in the spending plan, which was worked out by Chairwoman Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, and her staff, without much input from members of the committee. A number of members in particular asked Benacquisto to include funding for regional planning councils, which make infrastructure and development planning decisions, possibly by removing money from local member projects in Orlando that were vetoed last year by Gov. Rick Scott. The money for the regional planning councils was also vetoed last year by Scott, but several members on the committee said they want the line items in this year’s economic and transportation budget. Ultimately, the panel will give the Senate leadership a recommendation – not a bill – so no formal vote of the committee will determine what’s in the subcommittee “budget,” which currently is essentially represented by a spreadsheet that Benacquisto has given to members to review. But Benacquisto, after listening to members complain for two days and then listening to suggestions for changes on Wednesday, assured the committee she would review their concerns and may make changes to her proposal. “The important part of the process is the member input,” Benacquisto said afterward, adding she will give members’ concerns “very strong consideration.” The panel meets again on Thursday.

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