ST. JOHNS, Fla. – With children from one of Florida's top-ranked elementary schools looking on, Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday signed the $70 billion state budget into law.
"This budget is an education budget," Scott told a small crowd of sometimes squirming but mostly quiet students at St. Johns County's Cunningham Creek Elementary School.
Scott boasted the budget would increase kindergarten through 12th-grade education spending by $1 billion while making frugal use of taxpayer money.
The money will increase per-student spending by $150, pay for enhanced reading programs and fund an expected influx of new students next year.
But the Florida Education Association, the main teachers union, blasted the budget as "dismal." Democrats also took shots at the plan.
"This budget is nothing more than the same shortsighted priorities of Florida Republicans that has put the special interests ahead of investing in education -- while schools are left crumbling around our children," Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said in a statement. "That is no way to lead."
Some parents also were worried that the increase in funding for schools wouldn't be enough.
"A lot of times I'll hear the governor speak about supporting education, but he doesn't use the word public. That really is the state's role, is in our public schools," said Collen Wood, whose fifth-grader attends Cunningham Creek. "Putting some money back in is a step, but it is just that, one step."
The governor's vetoes included about $98 million in general revenue and another $44 million in trust fund spending. While the governor left in $5.6 million in funding for St. Johns River restoration that Florida TaxWatch included in its budget turkey list, he did veto $400,000 that would have funded a University of North Florida economic analysis of the river.
In other local projects, the governor vetoed a workforce and career enhancement center in St. Johns County and $250,000 for planning a new Flagler County jail.
The Republican governor vetoed far less spending than the $615 million he rejected last year, his first year in office.
DOCUMENT: List of governor's line-item vetoes
Scott says lawmakers and others heeded his warnings to give him evidence of why the money was needed and what taxpayers were getting in return.
For example, he says that's why he didn't veto nearly $4 million for public television stations this year. Last year, he vetoed that money.
"Look, we've had an incredible recession in this state, and to come back from where we were and put a billion new dollars in education, that's remarkable in this budget, without raising taxes, without raising fees on the backs of families," said Sen. John Thrasher, whose district includes much of St. Johns County.