Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a $74.1 billion state budget for the year beginning July 1 — vetoing $368 million Monday from the proposal approved by lawmakers earlier this month.
Erased with the vetoes was $6.5 million sought by Palm Beach State College for a new campus in Loxahatchee Groves — the third time such funding has been wiped out by a Florida governor. Another $325,000 in projects along the Lake Worth Lagoon sought by Palm Beach County officials also was vetoed.
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw also lost $1 million he had sought to form a special unit to head off potential violence by what law enforcement considered unstable residents.
In statewide issues, Scott vetoed a 3 percent tuition increase proposed for college and university students — a hike the governor has criticized for months. Meeting with reporters after signing the spending plan, Scott touted the budget’s additional $1 billion for public schools, including $480 million for teacher pay raises.
He also laid out his rationale for reviewing spending items in the budget.
“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 help make government more efficient so we keep the cost of living low in our state?” Scott said.
Singling out the tuition increase, Scott said, “I worry about the cost of higher education…some people think I shouldn’t get involved in that.”
But he added, “I am absolutely committed to keeping tuition low. This is not a political decision, this is a decision for Florida families.”
The state budget for 2013-14 will $4.1 billion bigger than the one that expires June 30, a roughly 6 percent increase.
Along with the $1 billion boost for public school spending; pay raises and bonuses for 160,000 state workers and higher education employees are included for the first time in seven years. Lawmakers also included $2.8 billion in budget reserves, that will swell now to more than $3 billion with the $368 million in vetoes.
In Palm Beach County, lawmakers and county officials had been optimistic that Scott would allow several hometown spending items become law. Instead, Scott swept through most of the county’s take-home list.
County officials lost $1 million budgeted for Glades Utility Authority pipeline improvements, $75,000 for the masterplan for Torry Island, a Lake Okeechobee marina that also was vetoed last year by Scott. Also lost was $200,000 for shoreline work in Lake Park and $1 million for two road projects in Riviera Beach.
Among the bigger single-item vetoes was $14 million for a new science, technology, engineering and math building at Gulf Coast State College in the home district of Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.
Gaetz was generally stoic.
“While many will disagree with some of Gov. Scott’s line item vetoes, that is his constitutional role as chief executive,” Gaetz said. “The next budget and policy cycle begins at sunrise tomorrow and we in the Senate look forward to our role as partners with the House…and the governor.”