TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis announced over $1 billion in vetoes from the state’s $92.2 billion budget on Monday.
The Tampa Bay area was not spared. At least $52.4 million in local projects got the ax from Florida’s Republican governor. Under Florida law, the governor has the power to veto individual line items from the budget, which was approved by the Legislature in March. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, organizations across the state had been bracing for the governor’s veto decisions.
In the Tampa Bay area, the cuts came in a variety of shapes in sizes: from $50,000 that would have gone to the Tampa Museum of Art to $1 million that would have gone to improving St. Pete Beach’s sanitary sewer capacity to $21 million that would have been spent on a new St. Petersburg courthouse for the state’s Second District Court Of Appeal.
The court, which handles appeals from the trial courts in 14 counties that stretch across southwest Florida, has been without a permanent courthouse since 2016. It relies now on rented space at the Tampa campus of Stetson University College of Law, where the lease expires in 2023.
For years, judges have tried to secure funding for a new facility. They finally got it this year, with plans to begin construction on state-owned land in St. Petersburg.
But COVID-19 complicated those plans. Now, they’ll have to wait at least until next year.
”It’s hard to know exactly what our future is,” said Judge Robert Morris, who has been involved in discussions of a new courthouse for years. “We’re disappointed, but we understand. … If I were the governor I probably would have made the same decision.”
Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who chairs the Senate budget subcommittee on criminal justice issues, signaled his displeasure at the courthouse veto.
“Judges are working out of broom closets,‘' Brandes said of the current setup.
Some organizations will feel the cuts more than others. Arts organizations, for example, had already been decimated by the coronavirus outbreak, which shut down large-scale performances across the region.
The Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, which received a $500,000 infrastructure grant in addition to about $46,000 in general funding last year, saw their $1 million request for help in its long-term master plan dry up. It wasn’t unexpected in a year like this, but arts advocates worry about the long-term mental health costs.
“People want to find a way to feel better,” said Donna McBride, director of grants and corporate relations at the Straz Center, which has been dark since mid-March. “We are hoping we can all figure out a way to get through this and provide our services to the community.”
Florida Senate Democrats blasted Gov. DeSantis for what they characterized as a veto list that leaned too heavily on local projects.
“The vast majority is coming on the backs of local projects and programs that our cities and our counties and our communities count on,” said Gary Farmer, D-Lightouse Point.
But not every organization in the Tampa Bay area saw cuts. The Florida Holocaust Museum, for example, got $600,000 from the state, which it will use to develop better Holocaust education curriculum for schools.
Elizabeth Gelman, the museum’s executive director, said she was pleasantly surprised by the governor’s decision to leave her organization’s funding intact.
“My jaw has dropped, but I’m very pleased,” Gelman said.
Times/Herald Tallahassee correspondent Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this story.
Here’s what the governor cut. To find out more about what the money would have been spent on, click the link* in each line item.
$21 million for a new Second District Court Of Appeal that was slated to be built in Pinellas County
$1 million for a new Dunedin Fire training facility/emergency operations center
$175,000 for two new vehicles for the Discovery Learning Center
$250,000 to help the City of Gulfport build a new park in its Waterfront Marina District
$250,000 for Madeira Beach sand retention infrastructure
$812,100 to extend the dredging of the Anclote River in Tarpon Springs
$90,000 to help Largo Keene Park improve its sanitary sewer infrastructure
$1 million to help St. Pete Beach improve its sanitary sewer capacity
$270,000 for a renovation of Pinellas Park’s Orchid Lake
$250,000 to beef up the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office’s Eckerd College Search and Rescue program
$260,413 for USF-St. Pete’s Center for Innovation
$250,000 for a partnership between USF and All Children’s Hospital
$725,000 to beef up St. Petersburg College’s nursing simulation program
$2 million that would have expanded St. Petersburg College’s collegiate high school program
$125,000 for Pinellas County Schools’ career acceleration program, which gives 200 students the ability to pursue a paid summer internship
$250,000 for the Stetson College of Law’s veterans advocacy clinic
$1.5 million for Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority Operations
$1 million for the Straz Center for the Performing Arts
$1 million for the Italian Club of Tampa
$500,000 for the renovation of the Jackson House in Tampa
$200,000 for the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative
$1 million for a new boardwalk and path near the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital
$300,000 to make Lois Avenue in Tampa safer for pedestrians and cyclists
$500,000 to expand the Florida Aquarium’s threatened coral archive and reproduction program
$500,000 for ZooTampa
$958,000 for a new irrigation sprinkler system at the Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club
$250,000 that would have shored up the wastewater system in some of Tampa’s older homes
$250,000 to improve the draining system in Tampa’s Anita subdivision
$500,000 for a master water plan for Plant City’s McIntosh Park
$250,000 for a new vehicle for Tampa Police Department’s bomb squad
$546,250 for a new vehicle for the the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office explosive ordinance disposal team
$50,000 for the Tampa Museum of Art’s community outreach program
$255,000 for a job training program through Feeding Tampa Bay
$500,000 to enhance a county’s STEM education program
$5,750,000 to bring drinkable water and sewer improvements to an undeveloped part of Pasco County
$100,000 for a new archive center at the Pioneer Florida Museum
$1 million for improvements to the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis Center in Zephyrhills
$250,000 in improvements for the Cypress Bridge Wellfield, which supplies drinking water to much of the Tampa Bay region
$850,000 to help stop street flooding on Quail Hollow Boulevard South
$100,000 to help stop street flooding on Mitchell Ranch Road
$750,000 for a new senior center in Dade City
$300,000 for a poverty assistance program through Metropolitan Ministries
$250,000 for a housing program through Metropolitan Ministries
$455,222 for improvements to the Hernando County public safety radio system
$400,000 for renovations to the Brooksville drinking water plant on Lamar Avenue
$424,065 that would have gone to the Hernando County Fair Association
$650,000 to enhance Hernando County Schools’ internet security infrastructure
*The links redirect to the budget proposals as requested by an individual legislator. The dollar figure that was ultimately approved by the Legislature for a given project may not equal the original amount requested.