Democrats have inserted language on a $35 million housing bond — a top priority of the governor’s — into the budget bill, H.518.
They have also decided to make key parts of an economic development bill — which contains Scott’s requested tax credits for affordable housing — “effective on date of enactment of FY 2018-19 budget.”
The strategy means that if Scott vetoes the budget, he will be vetoing his own housing bond and delaying the effective date of tax credits he has publicly supported to spur affordable housing development.
For the past several weeks, Scott has vowed to veto H.518 if Democrats, who control the Legislature, won’t pass a law requiring teachers to negotiate their health care benefits on a statewide basis. Scott has said the move will save $26 million, while Democrats have accused him of union busting.
Democratic lawmakers declared an impasse with Scott on Wednesday, saying that Scott is more interested in interrupting collective bargaining than saving money. That left lawmakers bracing for the promised budget veto.
Negotiations between the governor, Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe continued Thursday morning with no conclusion.
“I think it is a way for people to say ‘If you want your housing initiative, it’s in the budget, so if you want your budget, you get your housing bill,” said Rep. Sam Young, D-Glover, the vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee who also sat on the conference committee for the housing bill.
Young said he’s fine with adding the housing bond to the budget bill, but “It really wasn’t my decision. My goal was really just to come to an agreement on the housing package.”
Under the deal reached on the housing bond, the state will still divert $1 million per year in clean water funding to pay for the housing bond. The clean water funding mechanism, which was scheduled to sunset in 2018, would be extended to 2027.
Scott said Wednesday he had not researched what would happen if he vetoes the budget. He said he remains confident one will pass before the start of the fiscal year.
S.135 allows a state-level economic development council to create six new tax credit districts using the education fund. The bill also allows municipalities to create the “tax increment financing” districts using money not tied to the education fund.
“I think it’s to say, ‘Here’s the work. You’re the governor. Do what you think,’” said Rep. Bill Botzow, D-Pownal, the chair of the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee, who sat on the conference committee for S.135.
“Including the effective date, I’m happy with the bill,” Botzow said. “There are several things that really are helpful.”