House and Senate budget negotiators worked through the weekend of April 24 – 25, 2010 in an effort to conclude budget negotiations in time for the 2010 regular session of the Florida Legislature to end without needing an extended or special session. By the time weekend negotiations began, unsettled issues had been “bumped up” to the two chambers' budget chairs, House Full Appropriations Council Chair David Rivera (R-Miami) and Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair JD Alexander (R-Lake Wales). Appropriations bills must be in final form and on legislators' desks at least 72 hours before voting on the bills can begin, which means that negotiators must reach agreement on a budget for the 2010 – 2011 fiscal year by Tuesday, April 27, 2010 in order for the session to end on time on Friday, April 30, 2010.
One of the biggest concessions came when House negotiators agreed to drop their dramatic Medicaid reform plan. The House proposal would have placed all Medicaid beneficiaries in some form of managed care over the next five years. The Senate approach to Medicaid was somewhat less ambitious, expanding current Medicaid managed care plans to an additional 250,000 recipients in 19 counties. Other health care issues that were settled over the weekend included a seven-percent reduction in the state reimbursement rate for indigent care provided by hospitals, saving $96 million, a $77-million reduction in payments to nursing homes, and a $39-million reduction in payments to HMOs.
In education, negotiators appeared to agree on maintaining public school per-pupil spending at or near the current level of $6,866 per pupil. The Senate had proposed a $52 increase and the House had proposed a $38 decrease. Negotiators also agreed on plans to restrict eligibility for the Bright Futures scholarship program and to allow state universities to increase student fees.
Senate proposals to break up the Department of Management Services also were part of the budget negotiation process. The Senate plan would have scattered the department's functions among several agencies and would have given the state chief financial officer authority over procurement. As agreed by Sen. Alexander and Rep. Rivera, the department would not be broken up, but would be controlled by the governor and his cabinet, instead of by a secretary appointed by the governor.
By Monday, April 26, 2010, the two chambers appeared close to resolving state employee pay issues. The House accepted a Senate proposal that would avoid reducing state workers' salaries, but would, for the first time, require legislators, senior managers, and middle managers to contribute to their health insurance costs. Approximately 27,000 employees who currently receive free health insurance would be required to pay $100 a year for individual coverage or $360 a year for family coverage. State employees also would be required to contribute 0.25 percent of their pay to the Florida Retirement System.
Remaining issues include Senate proposals to provide $11 million in funding for public libraries and $10 million for Everglades restoration.