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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott will ask lawmakers to spend more on schools

After initially recommending lawmakers cut education spending, Gov. Rick Scott will now ask legislators to spend more -- three weeks after the final budget vote.

Scott today is expected to veto hundreds of millions of dollars out of the $69.7 billion budget the Legislature approved on May 6. In a radio interview this morning, Scott said he'll ask lawmakers to put that money back into schools.

"I'm going to suggest all that money oughta be put back into education, where we need to make sure we are educating our kids and we have the best educated workforce in the country," Scott said on 92.5 FOX NEWS in Fort Myers.

But Scott can only veto spending, he can't shift money in the budget. To put that money back into schools, lawmakers would have to re-open a contentious budget process.

That's unlikely for a number of reasons, including this one: Lawmakers spent more on schools this year than Scott recommended in his budget proposal. Plus, Scott did not once publicly ask lawmakers to increase education spending. Instead, he spent the final weeks of the legislative session threatening to veto the entire budget if it did not include tax cuts.

Scott, however, is probably feeling the pressure from parents. Districts around the state are laying off workers. One district in the Panhandle, Santa Rosa County, is shortening the school day because of state budget cuts.

But Scott says its not his fault if teachers get fired. He suggested in several interviews this week that school district officials are too worried about their own jobs. "Our local school districts have got to focus on putting teachers in the classroom and not focus on administration," Scott said this morning on Orlando's AM 580 WBDO. "We've got to make sure that in every one of our school districts the money is spent well."

Other notes from this morning:

• Scott wants to spend more on education, but he also suggested that he'll going to veto about $130 million in construction projects for colleges and universities. "I'm not doing things that raise our debt in the state," Scott told the Fort Myers station.

Jackonville's WOKV reported that the college construction projects were likely to go because Scott said he was worried the projects will hurt the state's bond rating and cost more in interest payments. "It's one of the things I'll be talking about this afternoon," Scott said.

• Another candidate for the veto ax: a $150 million raid from the transportation trust fund. Instead of using that money on road projects, lawmakers spent the cash on budget shortfalls. "We got to make sure that we have the money for infrastructure in our state, this state is going to be one of the fastest growing states again," Scott told WOKV.

But here's what Scott didn't say: Lawmakers spend some of that transportation money on schools. So if Scott vetoes the trust fund sweep, it would mean more cuts to education.

• The announcement of Scott's vetoes today has the feel of a campaign event: It's in The Villages, a Central Florida retirement communitiy operated by a top Republican donor, and it will be aired on Scott's campaign web site, which is now run by the Republican Party of Florida.

Asked on Florida Public Radio why he's announcing vetoes in The Villages instead of at the state Capitol, here was Scott's response:

"I'm making sure I travel pretty much every day around the state and give people the opportunity to know about what I'm doing, answer their questions and this is a great opportunity to do that," Scott said.

(It's unclear how people will be able to ask questions today. Check back later for an update.)

• Scott is calling this a "jobs budget," but the immediate effect will be 4,500 fewer state government jobs. Asked about that irony on Florida Public Radio this morning, Scott said, "What I'm focused on is growing the private sector."

• Scott implied that he'll veto something from every section of the budget. "Every area has things that are not going to build jobs," he told the Fort Myers station.

• Scott said he has spent "40-plus hours" going through the state budget, which has 3,036 lines. "I've gone through every line," he said.

• Scott on WDBO: "There's far too many tax dollars in the budget that can be put towards more important priorities."

 

[Last modified: Thursday, May 26, 2011 10:49am]

    

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