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Legislators return to take up budget struggle on Monday

Gov. Jeb Bush orders the 16-day special session so lawmakers can pass a $52.2-billion budget.

By Associated Press
Published May 7, 2003

TALLAHASSEE - Lawmakers will return to the state capital Monday for a 16-day special session to again try to craft a $52-billion budget and find ways to pay for it.

The session follows the Legislature's rancorous regular session that ended Friday without a budget deal, the only issue lawmakers are required to pass, or agreement on a host of other issues, including medical malpractice and workers' compensation insurance reform.

Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday ordered the special session to run from Monday to May 27 and gave lawmakers a list of 15 items, most of which deal with finding money for the $52.2-billion budget.

Bush is expected to call another special session later to deal with medical malpractice and workers' comp reforms.

Two of the issues he mentioned involved tax cuts.

Bush wants lawmakers to approve a sales tax holiday prior to the opening of school, when some clothing and school supply purchases would be exempt from the 6 percent state sales tax for several days. The Legislature has authorized the break in recent years.

"It's been a tradition," Bush spokeswoman Alia Faraj said. "The citizens deserve a break."

The governor also proposed expanding the income tax break for corporations that contribute to vouchers for needy children to go to private schools. Both chambers considered increasing the $50-million cap on the total tax credits the state could give, but neither bill passed in the regular session.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, said the only item in the governor's proclamation that the Senate opposes is the sales tax holiday, because it would take away money needed to balance the budget.

"The Senate is not going to entertain that," Pruitt said.

Nicole de Lara, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, R-Plant City, said Byrd supports the sales tax holiday and the rest of the governor's requests.

Several of Bush's proposals involve taking money from earmarked trust funds and making it available for other purposes. Legislators could add other items to the agenda, but it would take a two-thirds majority vote.

[Last modified May 7, 2003, 02:16:20]

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