Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who had a tough time winning cooperation this past year from the Republican-led Legislature, struck back on Monday by vetoing nearly $400 million from the state's new budget.
Scott praised the overall budget -- which now stands at roughly $74.1 billion -- because it includes boosts in spending in areas such as education. The budget, for example, includes $480 million that is aimed at handing out pay raises for teachers. That is among a $1.08 billion increase in K-12 education funding over last year's budget.
"We made strategic investments in this budget, while holding the line on spending that does not give Florida taxpayers a positive return on investment," wrote Scott in a message accompanying his list of vetoes.
But the GOP governor also took aim at some of his fellow Republicans as he axed $368 million from the final budget. His vetoes wiped out millions for college buildings, health care programs and even money for supplemental programs for veterans.
For example, Scott vetoed $14 million for a new technology and science building at Gulf State College that had backed by Senate President Don Gaetz.
Scott also vetoed a 3 percent tuition hike for college and university students that had been championed by House Speaker Will Weatherford. The governor also said no to a $50 million item to help construct a multi-use trail that would stretch from St. Petersburg to Titusville.
Among Northeast Florida projects vetoes by Scott were $2.5 million of capital improvements to St. Johns River Community College's Orange Park campus, $500,000 for a Nassau County Sheriff's Office administration building, renovations to the Clay and Bradford county courthouses and $500,000 for a St. Augustine historical documentary film. (Details in table at bottom of this article.)
This year marked the first time in seven years that legislators had a budget surplus to work with. They were able to use the extra cash to hand out state worker pay raises, set aside money for Everglades restoration and reduce the waiting list for those with developmental disabilities seeking state services.
But they also ignored some of Scott's recommendations or altered them. Legislators set aside money for the teacher pay raise, but at first they wanted to delay the raise until next summer. Scott also wanted to give a flat $2,500 increase to all teachers, but legislators instead tied the raise to performance evaluations.
Scott had also warned legislators about raising tuition rates and it was not a surprise that he decided to veto the 3 percent hike. There are legal questions, however, about the move and it could prompt a lawsuit from the Legislature.
In his veto message Scott said he was vetoing spending on projects because they either bypassed the normal process, or because the project did not have a statewide benefit.
|Northeast Florida projects vetoed||Cost|
|St. Johns River State College capitol improvements - Orange Park campus||$2,500,000|
|Learn2Earn summer program for Duval County high school students||$500,000|
|St. Augustine historical documentary film||$500,000|
|Nassau County Sheriff's Office administration building||$500,000|
|Clay County Courthouse renovations||$300,000|
|Bradford County Courthouse renovations||$200,000|
|Flagler County re-entry training program||$150,000|