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TALLAHASSEE - One week after their planned budget-cutting session collapsed in a stalemate, legislative leaders now say they have made progress and will convene early next month.
Lawmakers announced Thursday that the session will be held from Oct. 3 to 12. A proclamation will be issued next week.
"We are pleased to inform you that significant progress has been made to establish a general framework for reducing state spending," said a memo issued to legislators Thursday afternoon by Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, and House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami.
Gov. Charlie Crist, who voiced disappointment when the first special session was called off on Sept. 5, had a much different reaction to Thursday's development.
"I am pleased to hear of the recent progress in the Legislature. I am encouraged and look forward to working with them to balance Florida's budget as state law requires," Crist said in a statement.
The leading budget negotiators, Sen. Lisa Carlton, R-Osprey, and Rep. Ray Sansom, R-Destin, have been conferring on a plan of action. No details on their progress were released Thursday.
Although both chambers are controlled by Republicans, the Senate and House clashed over how to make cuts. Senators preferred across-the-board reductions of about 4 percent within broad spending areas, mainly education and human services, while the House favored what it called "targeted" cuts of bigger and smaller amounts.
Last week, Crist put forth his own menu of proposed budget cuts and spending increases designed to balance the budget and jump-start the state's sluggish economy. Among the biggest targets of Crist's spending reductions are higher education and juvenile justice.
Legislators are expected to use Crist's list only as a guide, while adding a number of their own cuts.
Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, the House Democratic leader, has been critical of the secret nature of preliminary discussions and warned about them again Thursday.
"It's really been a lousy way to do business," Gelber said. "Just because we exempted ourselves from the Sunshine Law doesn't mean we should exempt ourselves from public scrutiny."
Legislators say the planned eight-day session - the third special session this year - is necessary to reduce state spending by as much as $1.1-billion to bring it in line with a steady downturn in state tax collections that pay for much of the day-to-day operations of state government.
The Senate and House have tentatively scheduled interim committee meetings for Sept. 27-28. Those hearings are expected to be devoted to budget cuts.
The Oct. 3 date is two days after the expected repeal of personal injury protection car insurance, also known as no-fault, for Florida's 16-million drivers.
Times staff writer Alex Leary contributed to this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org of 850 224-7263.