Politics & Government

Gov. Scott's $615 million budget veto hits Florida's most vulnerable

At a campaign-style event that banned some Democrats, Republican Gov. Rick Scott fashioned himself into Florida’s new veto king Thursday when he axed $615 million from the state budget before signing it.

The biggest target of the veto pen: $305 million targeted for environmental land buys. Scott also cut $169 million in college projects and vetoed scores of hometown spending lawmakers earmarked for their districts.

Scott blamed “special interests” for the “shortsighted, frivolous, wasteful spending” — thereby irking some of his fellow Republicans who control the Legislature. Some accused him of hypocrisy, others of inflating his veto amount with financial gimmickry.

Below a banner that read “Promises Made, Promises Kept,” Scott brandished his red Sharpie veto pen and called on legislators to use some of the freed-up money to bolster education.

“I’m confident that most of us agree that school funding is far more important than spending those dollars on alligator marketing, or boat racing or anything else that the Tallahassee insiders think is so important,” Scott said, pointing to a few of the line items he vetoed.

Scott never mentioned the fact he originally called for a bigger cut to schools than the Legislature ultimately approved.

House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, took umbrage with Scott’s “new found emphasis” on increased education spending.

Cannon pointed out that much of Scott’s vetoes didn’t produce $615 million in cash because the items were for bonding authority or the sale of lands. Cannon said Scott only freed up $100 million, which would only increase education spending by .06 percent.

“What is more surprising is the governor’s sudden emphasis on K-12 education. The budget we sent him funds education at a higher level than the governor recommended just a few months ago, when he proposed a 10 percent cut,” Cannon wrote. “The governor communicated numerous priorities during session, and we did our best to accommodate him. It would have been helpful if the governor had shared this new found emphasis with us before the budget was finalized.”

In his speech Thursday, Scott omitted many of the serious-sounding programs he cut: homeless veterans, meals for poor seniors, a council for deafness, a children’s hospital, cancer research, public radio, whooping-cough vaccines for poor mothers, or aid for the paralyzed.

It’s also debatable whether he really holds the record for most vetoes because the environmental program he cut would only be funded from the future sale of surplus lands. The less land the state sells in the down economy, the less money his veto will actually be worth.

To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.

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