State Politics

Gov. DeSantis vetoes $7 million in Manatee County projects. Here’s who won the money

Anna Maria Island Pier reconstruction making progress

Reconstruction is underway on the Anna Maria Island Pier, which lawmakers allocated $285,000 toward. The pier suffered significant damage at the hands of Hurricane Irma in 2017.
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Reconstruction is underway on the Anna Maria Island Pier, which lawmakers allocated $285,000 toward. The pier suffered significant damage at the hands of Hurricane Irma in 2017.

In his Friday afternoon approval of the $90.98 billion 2019-2020 state budget, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a handful of projects that would have benefited Manatee County.

When the Florida Legislature approved its version of the budget in May, it set aside more than $22 million for local improvements, enhancements and funding. More than $7 million of that has been denied.

One of the most notable projects to be nixed is a multi-modal capacity improvement in the city of Bradenton Beach. The plan was to have the Florida Department of Transportation spend $2 million on “sustainable alternative transportation modes” along Gulf Drive South.

DeSantis also vetoed a $2.1 million injection to support Florida residents enrolled at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM), $1.5 million for Port Manatee seagrass mitigation, a $1 million Cedar Hammock Fire Control District training tower and about $440,000 for Manatee Educational Television.

Careful Review

In a letter to Secretary of State Laurel Lee, DeSantis said he carefully reviewed the entire budget and made cuts to “prepare for economic declines and build reserves to higher levels.” Some of the projects, however, did not meet his expectations.

“I also recognize that there are certain projects in the budget that government simply should not do, projects that are not a state responsibility and should be handled at the local or federal level, projects that did not follow established statutory review processes and projects for which sufficient funding wasn’t appropriated to support the intended effort,” he wrote.

Flanked by State government and private environmental stakeholders Governor Ron Desantis holds his press conference at UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science regarding funding for his administration's environmental initiatives.

Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said in a statement Friday that he “didn’t agree with every decision,” but understands that the DeSantis “takes his responsibility very seriously and that he has remained open-minded and approached the review process deliberatively.”

Galvano looks forward to working on another budget that fills in some of the gaps that weren’t addressed this year.

“In just a few short months, we will return to Tallahassee to begin the process of crafting the budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, and we will have another opportunity to address the needs of our constituents,” he said.

What is funded in Manatee County?

All of the other Manatee projects in the budget, including $10 million toward the much-anticipated 44th Avenue East extension, money for the reconstruction of the Anna Maria Island Pier and the State College of Florida’s science building expansion, were approved.

Mayor Dan Murphy offered an update on construction of the Anna Maria City Pier Monday to the Manatee County Tourist Development Council. Pier will be completed by December and the restaurant should be ready for business in March 2020.

The 44th Avenue funding now accounts for the vast majority of the money Manatee County will receive from the state. County Commissioner Carol Whitmore called it a “a win win for everybody.”

“That’s going to help us tremendously. We need somewhere in the ($80 million) range. This will totally help a lot,” she said. “It’s a main thoroughfare from Anna Maria Island to Lakewood Ranch, and it’ll help with our traffic congestion.”

DeSantis noted that one of the goals of his Bold Vision for a Brighter Future budget was to “enhance safety for motorists by relieving congestion on our roadways and implementing technology which will improve and modernize Florida’s infrastructure.”

Ron Schulhofer, the county's public works director, talks about 44th Avenue East extension, which when complete will be another east-west connector.

While Bradenton Beach missed out on multi-modal improvements, the city did receive $2.7 million in allocation for a flooding and stormwater improvements on Gulf Drive that are expected “to eliminate nuisance flooding and ponding on evacuation routes during normal storm events.” The city will also receive $500,000 for seagrass mitigation.

Upgrades are coming to the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, too. About $400,000 will be spent on a new mammal rescue vehicle, a new ceiling in the manatee aquarium and a backup generator for power outages.