Why did one House Democrat vote for the budget? A district earmark
One Democrat in the Florida House voted for the $70 billion state budget: Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg.
He felt compelled Monday to issue a statement explaining his vote in favor of what he called "a very flawed budget." But if you read deeper, he contends he had "unprecedented opportunity" to shape the budget -- despite Democrats' arguments to the contrary all session long -- and then reveals another reason: a $1 million earmark in the Department of Juvenile Justice budget for his district, which includes Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties.
Asked about the perception of voting that included his pork project, Rouson said "people will perceive whatever they want to perceive."
"I promised my folks I would bring something home to my district," he said.
Read his full statement below:
Representative Darryl Rouson, (D) St. Petersburg, offers the following comments regarding his decision to vote in favor of the 2010-11 Florida budget:
“On the last day of a tumultuous 60 day session filled with highs and lows; filled with days of bad bills resurrecting and nights of good bills dying with very little rhyme or reason, I cast the lone Democratic vote in the Florida House in favor of the budget. I did so with a heavy heart and a call to conscience. On critical matters where my vote was crucial to the Democratic block of principles I supported my party registration with total solidarity. This included a number of parliamentary maneuvers and an agreement on the last day to not waive the rules for certain bills to be heard when the republican majority sought to amend bad abortion language at the last minute.
The partisanship rancor was never more evident than in the last days of session. I stood firm against Senate Bill 6 which would have hurt so many teachers. I stood firm against offshore oil drilling ever coming to the floor. As the democratic minority we had some victories by sticking together.
However, I voted in favor of a very flawed budget with many shortcomings. As the Ranking Democratic Member of the House Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee I was given unprecedented opportunity to provide input, to prioritize and shape the $4 billion precious dollars under my charge. I was able to directly influence Substance Abuse Treatment dollars, save money in Department of Corrections by continuing prison diversion beds, defend the Public Defenders from huge drastic cuts, and restored dollars to the Guardian Ad Litem budget.
I fought hard in an unfriendly climate by staying on weekends and into the wee hours of the last weekend to find $1 Million, unless the Governor veto's it, to bring home for the people of District 55. This money will be used for youth employment programs at a time when even the St. Petersburg Times notes that youth unemployment is reaching 40% and higher for "at risk" youth. We did not fund many other worthy causes, but I stood in the gap for the welfare of District 55 and the entire state. For those who would criticize my vote, they need to know that I did not always agree with my committees decisions. However, in the confines of my committee, we were able to establish respectful relations across party lines.
I also had a very successful legislative session with three of my six bills now awaiting the Governor's signature. They are HB 787 Child Abduction Prevention, SB 366 / HB 187 Tobacco and Smoking Devices, and HB 869 Elections Advertising Disclaimer.
I intend to keep working hard for District 55 and Democratic principles, and I will do so by reaching across lines where it advances the interests of the voters of District 55 and the entire citizenry of the great State of Florida.
To that end I extended the olive branch to my colleagues on my budget committee and we achieved consensus. Not unanimity, but consensus.
The voters elected me to listen and lead the way in doing the right thing even where it may be unpopular. I intend to keep doing that.