A political Florida state budget that's good for Manatee County

June 4, 2014 

Staff Photographer

The Bill Galvano One Stop Center on 17th Avenue West in Bradenton. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

PAUL VIDELA — pvidela@bradenton.com Buy Photo

Gov. Rick Scott tread lightly across a political minefield in vetoing only $68.9 million in spending from the record $77 billion budget bill that he signed Monday.

Those judicious cuts pale in comparison to the $368 million he slashed last year with his line-item veto power and the $142 million from 2012.

In his first year in office, he chopped $615 million in what he termed "wasteful spending."

This, though, being an election year, Scott could ill afford to alienate Republican legislators whose hometown projects faced his scrutiny. At the same time, his more conservative supporters will likely object to the high level of government spending he did allow.

As a shocked Fort Walton Beach tea party conservative stated in a Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau report, "Sixty-nine million dollars in vetoes? That's not even accounting dust."

Manatee projects

Manatee County came out well, losing only a $50,000 allocation for the Visible Men Academy, a Bradenton charter school.

But the boys-only school, which opened last August with 74 kindergarten through second-grade students and is expanding into fourth grade this coming year, brings something unique to the county's education landscape.

The school focuses on teaching character and social development among low-income residents. That small state allocation could have borne big dividends for a fledging school with an important societal mission.

The four Manatee County projects labeled as "turkeys" by Florida TaxWatch survived the governor's wrath -- turkey being a derogatory term not to describe the merits of the spending but the non-vetted manner in which it was inserted into the budget.

Bradenton state Sen. Bill Galvano is all but guaranteed to become that chamber's president in 2018 -- during Scott's final year in office, should he win re-election this November. Whether politics came into play with the governor's decision to leave the four TaxWatch targets alone matters little because all are good investments in Manatee's social fabric.

Those four are:

• $100,000 for Bradenton's Bill Galvano One Stop Community Resource Center, a valuable community provider of various services to the homeless and working poor.

This money will help complete improvements to the center's medical-dental clinic, a pivotal component of the county's overall health care services that will help keep the homeless and the uninsured poor out of expensive hospital emergency rooms.

• $300,000 for an emergency room diversion program operated by Manatee County Rural Healthcare Services. This, too, will ease the pressures and costs on hospital ERs by steering non-emergency patients into primary care settings.

• $250,000 for the Community Coalition Hot Meal Program, further assistance for the poor and needy.

• $250,000 for the Manatee River Fair Association Inc. in order to complete construction on an exhibit hall built in 2009 at the county fairgrounds -- this after six years of applying for a grant.

The big Manatee County winner is IMG Academy, securing $5 million in state money for a sports performance research and development facility.

The lure of new jobs must have convinced our self-described jobs governor to retain this -- and we're appreciative. IMG is one of Manatee's prime economic engines, and ongoing expansion projects enhance that.

Sarasota County lost out on two big projects. The governor axed $1 million for Sarasota's Circus Arts Conservatory and $250,000 for the Sarasota Fairgrounds -- coincidentally, the same amount allowed for the Manatee County fairgrounds project.

Gov. Scott clearly played campaign politics with this budget and set aside his commitment to fiscal conservatism.

But in a year with $1.2 billion in new revenue after many lean years, worthwhile hometown projects deserve the state's attention.

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