TALLAHASSEE -- House and Senate leaders lobbed accusations of bad faith bargaining against each other as formal budget talks between the two Republican-controlled chambers remain stalled Monday.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman JD Alexander accused House Speaker Dean Cannon of “gamesmanship” in behind-the-scenes negotiations and attempting to stall talks to win favor for issues outside the budget despite “fair and balanced” offers from the Senate.
Cannon spokeswoman Katherine Betta responded in an email that the Senate is to blame for delaying a preliminary agreement because it keeps moving farther from the House with each successive offer.
“The speaker has not been negotiating with the Senate budget chairman and does not intend to,” Betta added.
“Rather, under proper legislative protocol the speaker negotiates with the Senate president.”
She wrote that Alexander should be talking with his House counterpart, Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring
Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said he last spoke to Grimsley on Thursday.
He said he tried to contact her Monday but she wasn’t in her office when he visited and she didn’t return a phone message.
“The speaker has done everything he can to not deal with me because I know the budget well and I can figure out his gamesmanship pretty quickly,” Alexander said.
He said anything Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, has told Cannon, R-Winter Park, was not a commitment but simply discussion.
“The reality is I am the Senate budget chairman,” Alexander said. “I am empowered by the president and Senate to be the lead negotiator on these issues and I intend to do that or I will resign.”
House and Senate leaders are trying to agree on pre- liminary issues that must be settled before conference committees can formally begin negotiating differences between their respective proposals for spending at least $66.5 billion in the budget year beginning July 1.