Before signing the new state budget into law, Governor Rick Scott vetoed about $8.2 million in spending for northwest Florida projects. And there’s talk about how some of the cuts may have been made, which is drawing fire from some lawmakers.
Scott signed the nearly $79 billion budget, which takes effect July 1, in his office on Tuesday. But prior to that, he unlimbered his line-item veto pen to the tune of $461 million; believed to be a record for budget vetoes.
“As I look through the budget I believe that individuals in our state, families in our state, can spend the money better than government can.”
State Sen. Don Gaetz, a Republican from Niceville, says while every governor exercises the power of veto, some of Scott’s choices “probably were pretty good, and some for reasons that probably are a little bit obscure.”
One local veto that stands out is the $3 million that was to have gone to helping build the Airport Commerce Park at Pensacola International Airport.
“The project was one that Sen. [Greg] Evers put in the budget,” said Gaetz. “And candidly, I don’t know why the Governor vetoed it. It’s an economic development project, it’s a jobs project.”
Gaetz told the News Service of Florida that Scott had promised that he would punish the constituents of those legislators who disagreed with him. And Gaetz added, it appears the Governor kept his promise, at least to one legislator.
“The projects that I had, that was [sic] actually in this particular year, [were] major projects that would have actually brought high-paying jobs,” said State Sen. Greg Evers, a Republican from Baker. Besides the Airport Commerce Park, he also proposed $1.5 million for infrastructure development at Whiting Aviation Park near Milton, which also was cut.
When asked if some of the vetoes were a form of political payback on Gov. Rick Scott’s part, Evers said he doesn’t feel that way, that lawmakers across the state felt the sting of vetoes.
Evers says what’s so disheartening about the Governor’s vetoes of Panhandle-based projects is what the region has meant to his political career.
“The Panhandle was what brought the Governor through both elections,” said Evers. “Had it not been for the Panhandle, the Governor wouldn’t have been there.”
Whether Gov. Rick Scott further damaged his already-tenuous relationship with the Legislature in general, and the Senate in particular, remains to be seen. And Scott, says Gaetz, will be back in the position of trying to sell his ideas for next year’s budget.