Gov. Ron DeSantis’ veto of a new marine science hub at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg is a betrayal to Tampa Bay and a travesty for all Floridians. It’s bad enough the governor put his presidential ambitions ahead of his obligation to protect 22 million people in this coastal state. But watching him gloat Thursday over this foolish, self-serving move was simply grotesque.
The Legislature budgeted $75 million this year to enable USF to build its planned Center of Excellence in Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences. The $80 million facility would have been located on USF’s St. Petersburg campus, and built on the world-class reputation of its College of Marine Science to serve as a research and education hub on issues related to the environment, oceanography and sustainability.
The Legislature’s full-throated support reflected the importance to Florida in addressing climate-related impacts, from rising seas to water quality, and the rare alignment of stars that is having two area legislators in charge of the Florida House and Senate. Florida is uniquely vulnerable to the extreme weather and flooding associated with climate change, and having a home base here exploring coastal resiliency research would have provided enormous benefits to residents and industry alike. The World Bank has named Tampa Bay one of the 10 most at-risk areas in the world from damaging floods, and one study pegs the damages of a major hurricane here at $175 billion. No wonder the facility was USF’s top legislative priority, and no wonder the region’s business and civic leadership rallied to bring it to life.
The USF College of Marine Science has proved its worth time after time, from its groundbreaking findings after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to its invaluable research and detective contributions after last summer’s massive Red Tide outbreak decimated marine life in Tampa Bay. The new marine science hub would have built on that reputation, strength and standing.
But DeSantis nearly broke his own arm Thursday patting himself on the back, lauding his vetoes, during a visit to his hunting grounds at The Villages, the central Florida retirement community, as a stark contrast to federal spending under President Joe Biden (whom he called “Brandon” — a meme for “F--k Joe Biden).
It’s amazing to watch this governor get his yuks at the expense of the people he represents. And humiliating Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, who championed this project, and who stood behind the governor Thursday, was just another workday.
For all his trash talk about Washington, DeSantis must have loved his time in the nation’s capital, because he’s so focused on getting back. And Floridians of every political stripe are paying the price. The marine center was a huge loss, in resources, vision and collaborative effort. It’s just the latest collateral damage from a governor riven by personal ambition.
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.