Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeb Bush criticized Gov. Lawton Chiles Monday for not vetoing enough "pork" from the state budget passed by the GOP-led Legislature.
The Legislature got a little "over exuberant" when it came to funding local pet projects, Bush told the Times during a campaign swing through Pasco County.
However, Chiles should have made it clear that such projects, commonly called turkeys, would not survive his veto pen, Bush said.
"When you get all this money, it's kind of hard _ the whole incentive process is to bring home the bacon," Bush said. "The governor is the only one that can provide that discipline."
Chiles vetoed $96.2-million from the $45.3-billion budget passed by the Legislature this session, which ended last Friday. While Republican legislators rejoiced that the cuts were "about average," in Speaker Dan Webster's words, Bush said they didn't go deep enough.
By not vetoing more, Bush said, Chiles missed an opportunity "to help out the lieutenant governor" _ Democratic gubernatorial candidate Buddy MacKay, who is running against Bush.
Speaking to a crowd of Republicans at Beacon Woods Civic Center, Bush said he was "running like I'm 10 points down . . . running scared and running hard" in an attempt to inoculate himself against what he said will likely be a "very negative campaign" by MacKay.
"When the attacks happen this time, hopefully people will shrug their shoulders and say, "I know this guy,' " Bush said.
Afterward, Bush said he would not hesitate to point out MacKay's record. But he promised not to run any "push polls" _ a campaign tactic in which campaign workers, operating in the guise of pollsters, phone voters to disseminate negative information about political opponents.
Late in the 1994 campaign, the Chiles' campaign used negative phone tactics against Bush in which senior citizens were told by a phony tax group that Bush was a tax cheat and that his running mate wanted to do away with Social Security and Medicare.
Other than the pet projects, Bush gave the Legislature "an A" for passing a $50 property tax rebate and other tax cuts, for passing a law requiring parental notification if a minor wants an abortion and for increasing funding for education.
During a tour of Pasco-Hernando Community College, Bush questioned at least one legislative priority. Community colleges received a 4 percent overall budget increase _ less than those given to the university system and to the public schools.
"I think that's wrong," Bush told college President Robert Judson, who brought it to his attention. "Community colleges are the best, most efficient way of educating the greatest number of people."
_ A version of this story appears in some regional editions of the Times.