From the Herald-Times Tallahassee Bureau
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed into law the largest budget in state history, a $77 billion spending plan crafted to enhance his re-election prospects, as well as the Republican legislators who crafted it.
Scott didn’t use a scalpel for vetoes, it was a pair of tweezers: $69 million in vetoed spending is less than half his previous low.
Among local funding projects included in the budget is $5 million for IMG Academy in Bradenton.
For the first time in six years, Scott and legislators had more money to spend because of the steady improvement in Florida’s economy.
Lawmakers spent more money on child welfare and to reduce water pollution, but they also packed the budget with hundreds of line-item spending projects for museums, parks, water systems, even a gun range for police training.
The budget includes $18.9 billion for public schools, or $6,949 per pupil, an increase of $176 per pupil. That’s the most money ever, but still falls $177 per-student below the record of $7,126 per student in 2007-2008, the first year Charlie Crist was governor.
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 that in his first year in office, Scott pushed for a $1.3 billion cut in public school spending, that he signed a second-year budget with $300 million in cuts to state universities and that 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.
Scott did not hold a public bill-signing ceremony— a clear sign that he did not want to draw any more attention than necessary to his decision to veto such little pork-barrel spending.
It was Scott’s most delicate use of the veto pen since he took office in 2011. He vetoed $142 million from the budget in 2012, and $368 million last year.
“He was in a precarious position,” said Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, who championed a number of line-item projects throughout the state.
Hooper said Scott could not afford to alienate his fellow Republicans in the Legislature when he’s in a tough fight for re-election, but he may rile conservatives by his support of more government spending.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/06/02/4153294/florida-gov-rick-scott-expected.html#storylink=cpy