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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Rick Scott’s veto pen is back: $368 million in line-items slashed

Gov. Rick Scott vetoed more than $368 million in spending from the state’s budget, using his line-item authority to strike out scores of projects ranging from a $50 million coast-to-coast bike trail to tens of millions in college and university tuition.

Scott’s extensive veto list is more than twice as large as his list last year, and his largest since his first year in office. It slashed state spending from $74.5 billion to $74.1 billion.

Even with the vetoes, the 2013-2014 budget is still the largest on record, and includes $480 million for teacher pay raises, $8.5 billion for transportation projects, $151.8 million for Everglades restoration and $273 million for ports.

“The Florida Families First budget helps families pursue their dreams by getting a great job and accessing a quality education,” Scott said in an emailed statement. “Teachers will get a pay raise and funds for their classroom supplies so they don’t have to pay out-of-pocket.”

This is Scott’s largest veto effort since his first year in office, when he slashed more than $615 million from the budget. Half of that came from a single-item: spending authority for the Florida Forever land conservation program.

Repeatedly citing the need for a statewide impact and a return on investment for all spending decisions, Scott vetoed more than $25 million in local water projects, millions in spending for education programs and school construction, museums, reentry programs and other social services. Many lawmakers hoping to include so-called “turkey” in the budget during the first year of a surplus in years will be disappointed as their hometown projects were axed by Scott.

As expected, Scott vetoed a 3 percent tuition increase for state colleges, universities and workforce education. In announcing the veto, he included comments of support from three community college presidents and University of Florida President Bernie Machen.

“As a result of the additional funds contained in the budget, the University of Florida will not be seeking a tuition increase for next year,” Machen said.

Scott had hoped all 12 state university presidents would collectively sign a letter rejecting any tuition revenue increases, but they refused. Although Scott said in his veto letter that his intent is to maintain tuition and fees at current levels, state law requires tuition to rise to equal the rate of inflation, which is 1.7 percent this year.

One of Scott’s largest veto items: $50 million for the state’s Coast-to-Coast connector, a bike trail stretching from St. Petersburg to Titusville. Scott said his Transportation Work Program already includes more than $57 million in statewide funding for transit greenway projects, and that the connector could be completed over time.

“The worthwhile project contemplated by the Coast-to-Coast connector,” Scott wrote, “can be built incrementally and consistent with a prioritization of gaps in the existing trail system.”

Click here to read Scott's 58-page veto letter.

[Last modified: Monday, May 20, 2013 1:18pm]


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