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‘Frustrated’ Grimsley says budget talks have collapsed with Senate

The budget talks between the House and the Senate are suddenly in bad shape and the question is whether the 2012 session is headed for a meltdown.

After what appeared to have been a productive weekend of discussions, the lines of communication have “gone very quiet,” according to Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, who’s leading the budget talks for the House.

Grimsley said conversation with Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales,  her counterpart in the Senate, was nearly non-existent on Monday, a crucial day for the negotiations.

“No progress has been made, and I'm a little frustrated, now that we’re entering the very end of the 11th hour,” said Grimsley. “There was very little discussion yesterday, which is very uncharacteristic of Senator  Alexander. He’s always very upfront with me.”

Grimsley indicated she believed Alexander was being influenced by the “fourth floor”  leadership of Senate President Mike Haridopolos, harkening memories of the last-day debacle during the 2011 session marred by bicameral bickering between the House and Senate.

Grimsley said this year’s process is now behind schedule compared to last year, which is not the benchmark lawmakers want to rely on. Just yesterday, Grimsley said the process was on target with last year's timeline, indicating that something happened to fudge the talks on Monday.

“Based on the rumors we were hearing, I can only assume that [the delay] is coming from somewhere else,” said Grimsley, who mentioned “the Fourth floor” of the Capitol, where leadership is located.

She went on to say that there were some sticking points in the negotiations over the transportation and higher education.