TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Rick Scott signed a $77 billion budget Monday, the largest in Florida history, and protected hundreds of millions of dollars in hometown projects by his fellow Republicans in the Legislature.
Scott's use of the line-item veto was his most surgical yet, as he trimmed only $69 million in spending and preserved spending for parks, museums, festivals, elderly meals programs, water and sewer projects and a gun range for police officers in Brevard County.
Scott offered no reason for many of his line-item vetoes, and Tampa Bay felt the sting of Scott's veto pen in numerous areas.
The governor rejected $1.625 million for Agenda 2020, a city visioning project supported by Mayor Rick Kriseman; $1 million for a Nature Coast tourist center in Hernando County; $500,000 for the Largo Cultural Center; $100,000 for a YMCA Tech Smart Tampa Bay project; and $50,000 for a Tampa Bay baseball museum at the home of Hall of Famer Al Lopez.
Scott, who is seeking a second term in November, said the budget "cuts taxes for Florida's families, holds the line on tuition and provides historic levels of funding for Florida."
State Rep. Carlos Trujillo said Scott did a good job curbing unnecessary spending even in a year with more money available and applauded his veto list. "I think a lot of the projects they had value but not to the state as a whole," said Trujillo, R-Miami. "They had value to just unique small communities or just small groups of people."
Trujillo said that goes for the $2 million axed from the budget for the Sky Rise Miami project. "They're spending hundreds of millions of dollars in building this project, they should pay for the sidewalks and the others things that are necessary for completing this project."
The bottom-line number for K-12 schools of $18.9 billion is the largest in history, but per-pupil spending is still $177 less than during the high-water mark of 2007-2008, the first year of former Gov. Charlie Crist, who is Scott's likely opponent this fall.
In addition, about two-thirds of the increase in K-12 spending is paid for by local property taxes, due to increases in home values -- one of several indicators of a rejuvenated Florida economy.
Crist had called on Scott to veto hundreds of millions of dollars in pet projects for lawmakers' districts and plow all of it into the public schools.
Democrats cited the fact in his first year in office, Scott pushed for a $1.3 billion cut in public school spending, he signed a second-year budget with $300 million in cuts to state universities and the Bright Futures scholarship program serves fewer students today than it did seven years ago.
"Rick Scott is trying to run from his record of slashing education funding," Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant said. "No amount of poll-tested talking points can change the fact that per-pupil spending still remains below 2007 levels."
The budget includes $18 million more for the state to hire and train 270 additional front-line workers to reduce caseloads of employees who investigate cases of child abuse and neglect at the Department of Children and Families.
The budget, which takes effect July 1, contains no statewide increase in tuition for universities and community colleges, which was a top Scott priority.
Most state workers will not get an across-the-board pay raise, but they will be eligible for performance bonuses.
The budget sets aside $3 billion in rainy-day unspent reserves for emergencies such as hurricanes.