Friday, May 25, 2018
News Roundup

Gov. Scott vetoes money for regional planning councils for fourth year

Although Gov. Rick Scott didn't veto a lot of spending in this year's $77 billion state budget on Monday, he did reject $2.5 million for the state's regional planning councils.

That he did so should not be a surprise. Scott vetoed funding for the regional planning councils in 2011, 2012 and 2013, too.

Because of Scott's repeated vetoes, the councils have been forced to lay off employees or freeze pay because their other source of funding, local governments, could not fill the gap.

At the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, the vetoes have also required picking which of the state-mandated duties to follow and which ones to let slide, said executive director Manny Pumariega, who had been hoping to get about $200,000 of the $2.5 million.

"Some of them you're just not going to be able to fulfill," he said.

There may be broader consequences as well.

"We were going to use that money for economic development in the region," said Terri Joseph, executive director of the West Florida Regional Planning Council, which covers much of the Panhandle, and which also was due to get $200,000 from the state.

Scott did not directly address why he has repeatedly cut out any funding for the planning councils. He said Monday that in selecting what to veto in the budget, "I went through it and tried to look at every one and say, 'Was it a good use of taxpayer money? Do we get a good return on investment?' "

His press secretary, John Tupps, also did not answer why the councils have been singled out. Instead, Tupps said in an email Tuesday only that "this budget works to protect Florida's environment, create jobs and improve our state's infrastructure," and that "the funding for all regional planning council projects comes from federal and local tax dollars."

For more than a quarter of a century, Florida's 11 regional planning councils have worked with cities and counties to, say, find the best hurricane evacuation routes, attract businesses or assess how a shopping center built in one city might affect the traffic in neighboring areas.

The councils could always count on getting some money from the state, until Scott was sworn in. One of his first acts was to join the Legislature in dismantling the state's growth management watchdog agency and the law it enforced. Then he vetoed money for the planning councils. The Legislature always approves $2.5 million, and Scott cuts it to zero.

In 2012, a Scott spokesman said he had vetoed the money that time because "Gov. Scott felt there was a lack of performance measures documenting the effectiveness of regional planning councils to justify state funding." So the councils put together performance measures — and were vetoed again.

"It would be nice to have those funds so things wouldn't be so tight around here," said Margaret Wuerstle, executive director of the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, which is based in Fort Myers.

She said her agency has increasingly come to rely on grant money, which has required pursuing things other than their growth-related duties. For a National Endowment for the Arts grant, for instance, her staffers cataloged all the public art in their region.

The 11 councils are members of the Florida Regional Councils Association, whose executive director is longtime Tallahassee lobbyist Ron Book. Book said he met with Scott to plead for his clients, and he's as baffled as anyone else about Scott's repeated rejections of the funding — especially given the Legislature's unflagging support all four years.

"I believe he gave it a hard look," Book said, "but I'm just still not sure that the governor's staff understands all of what the regional planning councils do."

Craig Pittman can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @craigtimes.

Comments
Rare red wolf pups born at ZooTampa

Rare red wolf pups born at ZooTampa

The pups are an important addition to the populations of this rare Florida species, and the first red wolf births at the zoo since 1993.
Updated: 3 minutes ago
Federal Reserve chairman warns his agency must be free from political pressure

Federal Reserve chairman warns his agency must be free from political pressure

Associated PressFederal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned Friday that the Fed’s independence from political pressure must be respected if it is to succeed in controlling inflation, maximizing employment and regulating the financial system. His re...
Updated: 9 minutes ago

Top 5 at noon: Subtropical Storm Alberto forms in Caribbean, threatens to drench Tampa Bay; can group that advocates for LGBT rights make itself heard in today’s GOP? and more

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com:SUBTROPICAL STORM ALBERTO FORMS IN CARIBBEAN, THREATENS TO DRENCH TAMPA BAYThe first tropical system of the 2018 hurricane season has formed in the Caribbean and threatens to drench the Tampa...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Subtropical Storm Alberto forms in Caribbean, threatens to drench Tampa Bay

Subtropical Storm Alberto forms in Caribbean, threatens to drench Tampa Bay

TAMPA— The first tropical system of the 2018 hurricane season has formed in the Caribbean and threatens to drench the Tampa Bay area with heavy rains and potential flooding over the Memorial Day weekend.The National Hurricane Center says Subtropical ...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
Restaurants like Ford’s Garage use the experience to get you in the door

Restaurants like Ford’s Garage use the experience to get you in the door

Tim Butler’s first car was a Ford Model A pick-up truck — a pearl fawn and cherry red pick-up he got his senior year in high school from his dad, who renovates antique cars. That’s why as Butler waited for a table at the Ford’...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
FSU football fans: How do you remember Jimbo Fisher?

FSU football fans: How do you remember Jimbo Fisher?

Former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher should be back in the state next week for the SEC's spring meetings in Destin. It is, to my knowledge, his first big trip back to Florida since leaving for Texas A&M in December.With that in mind, my questi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
St. Petersburg man fined $507,513 in penny stock scheme

St. Petersburg man fined $507,513 in penny stock scheme

TAMPA — A St. Petersburg man was fined $507,513 and permanently barred from participating in the offering of a penny stock in a case involving a scheme to manipulate the price of Aureus, a penny stock company incorporated in Nevada, officials said Fr...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Alex Cobb excited about return “home” to Trop even in Orioles orange

Alex Cobb excited about return “home” to Trop even in Orioles orange

RHP Alex Cobb has already pitched twice against his former Rays mates in Baltimore and said it didn't feel that weird, especially since there were so many new faces in the lineup.But coming back to the Trop, where he made his big-league debut and spe...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Broadcom’s CEO tops highest-paid list with a $103 million payout

Broadcom’s CEO tops highest-paid list with a $103 million payout

Times staff and wiresNEW YORK — Chief executives at the biggest public companies got an 8.5 percent raise last year, bringing the median pay package for CEOs to $11.7 million. Across the S&P 500, compensation for CEOs is often hundreds of times highe...
Updated: 1 hour ago
He is accused in 13 Gulfport vehicle burglaries. An ankle bracelet tipped police off.

He is accused in 13 Gulfport vehicle burglaries. An ankle bracelet tipped police off.

GULFPORT — An 18-year-old man, wearing an ankle bracelet, was arrested Thursday after he was accused of breaking into 13 cars in a one-block radius over the last week.Benjamin Langkamp Jr. faces 13 charges of vehicle burglary — each of which occurred...
Updated: 3 hours ago