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House Speaker Sprowls: Tough Choices Ahead To Close State Budget Gap

University of South Florida
Chris Sprowls speaks at USF St. Petersburg.

New Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls said lawmakers will have to make some tough decisions on the budget gap when the legislature is back in session Tuesday.

Closing a budget gap that's around $2.7 billion could eat up a lot of time in Tallahassee when the annual legislative session begins Tuesday.

During a visit Friday to the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg campus, House Speaker Chris Sprowls says lawmakers will have to separate pet projects from legislation that is urgently needed.

"You have so many priorities, and so I think it's most important that we take the most vulnerable, that we protect them, that we protect the most vulnerable parts of our community," he said, "which we're doing in things like the environment, like we're doing in COVID liability to make sure that businesses reopen and engage in commerce. So it's not one thing - it's a lot of things."

Still, the Palm Harbor Republican said Florida is in much better shape than a lot of other states from lost revenue related to the pandemic. He said the state House and Senate have been forced to make tough choices for recovery before, and they'll do it again.

"Obviously, we care about protecting the environment and coastal flooding - we're committed to doing that," he said. "We have to worry about our health care budget, which is significant, obviously hospitals and nursing homes have taken significant hits this year. So it's going to be a tough process, but we've done this before."

Sprowls unveiled several bills Friday at USF St. Petersburg that would address the effects of sea level rise and flooding on coastal communities.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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