House Speaker Tom Feeney shrugged off a tax-cut compromise Thursday from Senate President John McKay, insisting that the Senate accept $355 million in tax breaks before the House agrees to boost spending for education and social programs.
"The House has offered to embrace the Senate priorities as our own only if the acceptance is reciprocal and the Senate agrees to government reform and matching our proposal for $355 million in tax relief," Feeney said.
Feeney and McKay have exchanged letters containing offers the past two days, but are falling far short of becoming pen pals.
In his note, McKay called Feeneys initial written proposal on Wednesday, "a novel way to commence budget negotiations." McKay then went on to counter with a modest, $45.2 million tax cut plan that he even warned "may not be possible" if state program costs rise.
"While your goals are admirable, the severity of your proposed tax cuts would compromise the health and safety of our citizens and the education of our children," McKay wrote Thursday, concluding, "My door is always open."
He also rejected outright the Houses push for more job cuts and government belt-tightening, saying the Senate has gone far enough in those areas.
The hardening positions of McKay and Feeney, R-Oviedo, is fueling talk among lawmakers and lobbyists about prospects of the budget deadlock forcing the Legislature to continue past its scheduled May 4 adjournment, into an overtime session that could cost taxpayers as much as $40,000 a day.
And for the first time Thursday, Feeney said it could happen.
"We dont turn into pumpkins on May 5 or 6th," Feeney said.
Sen. Rudy Garcia, R-Miami, said neither side willing to budge, "I see a train wreck coming."
The Senate has already appointed a 22-member negotiating team, ready to begin settling differences with the House over their separate $50 billion spending plans for the budget year beginning July 1. But so far, Feeney is refusing to appoint budget conferees.
Feeney left the Capitol on Thursday for Philadelphia, where hes scheduled to speak today before the conservative Heritage Foundation on the topic, "Good Policy is Good Politics."
But before leaving, he underscored that his offer to meet the Senates position on schools, social programs and funding for developmentally disabled services -- all top priorities for McKay -- is contingent on getting $355 million in tax breaks. Two-thirds of the Houses tax-break package is devoted to a rollback in the states intangibles tax on stocks and investments, paid mostly by wealthier Floridians.
"The principles that Republicans share, less taxes, less government and more freedom, require us to do more to relieve the burden of taxpayers," Feeney said.
John Kennedy can be reached at email@example.com or 850-222-5564.