State Politics

Manatee largely escapes governor’s veto pen

MANATEE — Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed $371 million of expenditures in signing a $70 billion state budget Friday, largely sparing Manatee County.

Rep. Ron Reagan and Rep. Bill Galvano, both Bradenton Republicans, said they were pleased with the final budget and that Manatee fared well.

Both lawmakers praised state funding for the emergency room diversion program as a bright spot, allowing the indigent to seek care from the Rural Health Network, rather than taking every ailment to a hospital emergency room.

Galvano also said that he was pleased with state funding for the One Stop Center in Bradenton that serves the homeless and for marine research at Mote Marine in Sarasota.

Galvano said he thought Crist’s veto pen was well aimed.

“Those are taxpayers’ dollars that aren’t being spent,” Galvano said.

A $1 million pilot jobs program proposed by Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, survived the governor’s veto pen, despite being labeled a “turkey” by Florida TaxWatch, a financial watchdog group.

Rouson said he was “humbled” by the inclusion of his jobs bill in the final state budget.

“The process of legislating and budgeting in Tallahassee is quite an animal to get your leash around,” Rouson said.

In listening to his constituents, one of the things Rouson said he heard over and over again was the need for jobs.

Rouson said his jobs program would be targeted to hard-hit areas like Memphis in Manatee, Newtown in Sarasota, mid-town St. Petersburg, and Ruskin in Hillsborough County.

“We were looking at areas that are struggling and what is going on with at-risk youth in those communities,” Rouson said.

New College of Florida wasn’t so lucky with its $7.1 million request for funds to renovate and update the Caples campus south of the Ringling Museum of Art. The campus houses environmental studies and art history facilities. Several of the buildings date to the 1920s.

Jake Hartvigsen, spokesman for New College, said the funds are needed to bring those buildings up to date, noting that the older buildings are showing signs of deterioration.

Hartvigsen said New College officials will have to wait and hope the funding is restored next year.

The line-item vetoes included $160 million lawmakers removed from Florida’s transportation trust fund for other projects. The veto restored that money to road building and other transportation projects. When the announcement of the final budget was made, Crist was headed to Louisiana for a briefing on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill with President Barack Obama.

In a press release from the governor’s office, Crist said he vetoed a reduction to the Medicaid reimbursement rates paid to nursing-home providers, and also vetoed a prohibition against the use of state funds to support human embryonic stem cell research.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021. Herald wire services contributed to this report.