Florida Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a record $461.4 million from the new state budget Tuesday, quickly wiping out many spending priorities of his fellow Republicans in the Legislature.
Scott quietly signed the budget in the privacy of his office Tuesday morning — a sign that he realized the political implications of his actions with state lawmakers.
The governor vetoed projects in every corner of the state, including $241,000 to restore the Bethel AME Church in St. Petersburg. Scott said the rejected projects either were not statewide priorities or duplicated existing programs.
Surviving the budget cuts were two major University of South Florida projects: $17 million toward relocating USF’s Morsanic College of Medicine to downtown Tampa and $12.3 million toward USF’s business school in St. Petersburg.
Among the more notable items slashed was a controversial $2.05 million earmarked for sports facility IMG Academy in Bradenton, a project added to the budget by lawmakers without any public vetting just before a budget deal was reached.
Several priorities of Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-0rlando, were cut, including $15 million for a downtown Orlando campus of the University of Central Florida that Scott said “circumvented” the Board of Governor’s ranking of projects.
Scott also vetoed $300,000 for a Holocaust memorial for Miami Beach and $50,000 for the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center. He vetoed legislative grants to the Special Olympics and United Cerebral Palsy.
He vetoed funding increases for Nova Southeastern University in Davie, a private college, because the school increased its tuition by 2.9 percent last year.
Even legislators who are considered allies of Scott saw their budget priorities disappear.
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, wanted $1 million to restore a marina in Pahokee; $1 million for East Lake Library in Palm Harbor; and $300,000 for a water taxi project on Clearwater Beach, and all were vetoed by Scott.
Scott also vetoed Latvala’s idea of a $1 million program to train more pilots in Florida in an effort to improve the quality of air service in Tallahassee.
“State educational institutions provide such training,” Scott’s veto message said.
All told Scott’s list of line-item vetoes runs for 10 pages and totals $461,387,164.
Scott and his advisers did not share much of their decision-making with key legislators or their staff members beforehand.
“I didn’t know it was coming,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.
Scott’s veto list barely topped the previous record of line-item vetoes of $459 million, set by former Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010.
Scott took the advice of House Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, who urged the governor to “veto boldly,” paraphrasing Martin Luther.
Scott acted swiftly, too: The budget passed the Legislature last Friday by votes of 37-0 in the Senate and 96-17 in the House. Passage was nearly two months late, the result of a prolonged political stalemate between the House and Senate over health care policy.
Times/Herald staff writer Michael Auslen contributed to this report. Contact Steve Bousquet at firstname.lastname@example.org