TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a new $77 billion budget on Monday, the largest in state history.
The budget cuts $500 million in taxes and fees -- mostly reductions in motor vehicle fees and business investment tax credits -- while committing $575 million more to education. Critics point out that despite the increase, with 90,000 new students in Florida's public schools now, the state will spend $177 less per student next year than it did in 2007.
Scott used the line-item veto to cut $68 million in individual spending items from the budget, including three projects in Jacksonville. However, the governor made much shallower cuts in this spending plan than during his previous three budgets.
The vetoes included money for dozens of hometown projects sought by legislators including money for a Miami observation tower and a dog park in Jacksonville.
The items cut in Jacksonville includes $500,000 for a telemedicine center at St. Vincent's Hospital, $150,000 for a single-gender school in Duval County, $123,000 for Riverside Avondale Preservation to build a dog park and $50,000 for a Jacksonville Women's Business Center.
FULL LIST: Gov. Scott's budget vetoes
Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said in a statement that he was disappointed by the governor's veto of the single-gender school funds and expects the single-gender leadership academy at Butler Middle School to become a model of reform in coming years.
Kelly Brockmeier, communications director for St. Vincent's, said the hospital is disappointed with the governor's decision to veto the telemedicine funding. She said the program will continue and the hospital believes the technology is saving lives.
The budget did include $2 million to build infrastructure necessary for the development of Cecil Spaceport.
"This is an important step in the development of Cecil Spaceport," said JAA Executive Director Steve Grossman. "The state's support for Cecil and this developing industry is critical. If the commercial space industry doesn't come to Cecil, it will likely not come to Florida for at least another four or five years."
The overall budget is roughly 3.5 percent higher than last year's budget and includes a boost in money for schools, child welfare and projects to battle water pollution.
Legislators came into this year's session with a $1.2 billion budget surplus. They used some of the extra money on dozens and dozens of hometown projects.
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