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Gov. Scott signs state budget, vetoes $368M in projects

5:41 PM, May 20, 2013   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Gov. Rick Scott uses his veto pen to slash $368 million from next year's state budget, including $50 million to complete a bike trail from St. Petersburg to Brevard County.

The final budget comes in at just over $74 billion.

That's about $4 billion larger than the current budget, but Scott said it represents the lowest cost of government in the past decade when you consider inflation and population growth.

The budget includes an extra $1 billion for K-12 schools, including $480 million for teacher raises. He calls the pay raise the right thing to do because teachers are getting better results in the classroom.

Scott vetoed a three percent tuition increase for colleges and universities because, he said, he worries about the cost of higher education.

"I know in my case and in my wife's case, we didn't have parents that could pay for our higher education so the cost of tuition was very significant to us. I know some people think I should not get involved in that, some people think we can't win, I am absolutely committed to keeping tuition low. This is not a political decision. This is a decision for Florida families. Tuition cannot continue to go up the way it's been going up. I don't care whether we're talking about a 3 percent tuition increase or a 1 percent tuition increase. We need to hold the line on tuition."

Scott also explained his criteria for vetoing projects.

"My filter was this. One, is it going to help our families get more jobs. Two, will it help improve our education system in our state and three, will it make government more efficient so we can keep the cost of living low in our state."

Scott said that criteria led him to veto $50 million to complete a 275-mile bike trail even though he personally loves to bike. Scott said a project like that should be coordinated through the Department of Transportation rather than the Legislature.

"I love to bike... We're doing projects like that out of the Department of Transportation. That's the way we should be doing that rather than have a project like that."

The governor did decide to leave $4 million in the budget for the Clearwater Aquarium for another movie about Winter the dolphin. Asked if he liked dolphins, he said he did.

"I do. I've seen Dolphin Tale. I've met Winter. I went there. They splashed me." (Reporter: Did that play a part in you not vetoing?) Everything that happens in your life impacts your decision tree, but the decision tree for this was jobs, improve education, keep the cost of living low."

The state budget, which takes effect July 1, also includes pay raises and bonuses for state workers - their first in seven years. Plus, it sets aside about $3 billion in reserve.

Last year, Scott vetoed $143 million worth of projects. In 2011, he set the all-time record for line-item vetoes by a governor in Florida with $615 million.

Dave Heller

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