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Florida Legislature Divided Over Budget, Tax Cuts

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Florida Senate
State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee

The Florida Senate approved a nearly $81 billion budget this afternoon, and now, the Florida Legislature has less than a month left in its regular session to reach a deal over a new state budget.

"I know the members have a lot of priorities here, some of them have been expressed here on the floor,” said state Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, who chairs the Appropriations Committee. “And we are just now entering the process in which we will reconcile with the House of Representatives, and we'll have an opportunity to continue to address those priorities.”

The House and Senate passed rival budgets on Thursday that are different in many key areas. The House has also set aside enough money for a large tax cut package.

It's not clear if the Senate will go along with the House tax cut plans. The idea isn’t sitting well with the Senate budget chief.

"If we even begin to entertain tax cuts, remotely in the area of that $1 billion number, it would be fiscally irresponsible of us,” Lee said. “It just would be."

The House has proposed cutting that much in taxes, but their bill would spread the cuts out over a two-and-a-half-year period.

The Senate passed its budget by a 40-0 vote. The House vote Thursday morning was 85-29, with many Democrats voting no.

State Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, said lawmakers should have had more time before the floor vote to resolve issues that came up during debate on the budget.

"I do hope perhaps there's a willingness in future legislatures, to perhaps understand these things, and then if we're whining, we're whining," he said.