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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott budget veto minimum: $350m...and counting

**UPDATED We're hearing that Gov. Rick Scott's administration is floating a minimum budget veto number of $350 million. But it could be far north of that. He could catch and surpass Gov. Charlie Crist's record of $459 million with just a few pen strokes.

It would provoke kvetching by the higher-education community, legislators and advocates for healthcare spending. But kvetching doesn't seem to bother Scott.

Scott has already signaled that he's troubled with the Public Education Capital Outlay program that funds college and university construction. If he vetoes all of the money for college construction (including general revenue and lottery money it could net $277 million in savings (line items 15 a,c,d in budget). Add to that the college and workforce tuition fee increases of $181 million and Scott is already at $458 million.

That leaves him just $1 million shy of Crist's record.

There are at least $120 million more in hometown spending projects (approved in just one day in conference by budget negotiators) that Scott could ax as well. If he whacked all of them, Scott's budget vetoes could reach $578 million.

Then there's the state transportation trust fund. Lawmakers wanted to raid $150 million of it. Scott might veto that, too. But the money could be tied to education, and therefore the veto could cut education more. Scott's solution: Call the Legislature back into session to plug the new hole.

If Scott vetoes that and the other items, then his total cut to the budget would be $728 million.

That sure seems like a lot of money. But it's about a percent of the $69.7 billion budget.

Chances are, Scott won't go this far.  Vetoing all of the PECO money for higher-education would likely lead to loads of construction layoffs and bad publicity for Scott. It would also negate the higher-education budget conforming bill and undo some priorities Scott has tacitly signed off on. Beyond higher-ed, some of the vetoes could seem particularly painful, affecting everything from county health departments and tuition-assistance for minorities.

Still, with the political newcomer determined to make good on his slash-and-burn budget-cutting campaign promises, it's a good bet that he'll be gunning for Crist's record. How he'll get there will become far clearer at 1 p.m. today.

 

[Last modified: Thursday, May 26, 2011 10:35am]

    

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