Florida governor signs $78 billion state budget, minus some pork

Reuters News
|
Posted: Jun 23, 2015 1:59 PM

By Bill Cotterell

TALLAHASSEE (Reuters) - Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a $78.2 billion state budget Tuesday, vetoing a record $461 million in pork-barrel projects that legislators requested in their special session last week.

The Republican governor praised legislators for including tax reductions of $427 million in the budget. He had sought nearly $700 million in cuts, but a standoff over healthcare funding caused the state to shift some general revenues to make up for reduced federal funding in hospital programs.

Scott's $461 million vetoes were mostly hometown building projects, dubbed “turkeys,” injected by influential Republican legislators at the last minute to smooth ruffled feathers.

They included $15 million sought by Senate President Andy Gardiner, an Orlando Republican, for a downtown campus for his hometown university. Scott also axed $27 million for a water storage project.

His veto messages said the governor eliminated programs that he thought did not go through the normal committee process or lacked statewide impact.

Scott also vetoed $300,000 for a Holocaust memorial in Miami Beach and $50,000 for a Holocaust education center. Also rejected was a $150,000 item for restoration of the “Ma Barker house” in Marion County, scene of the FBI shootout in 1935 with the Barker-Karpis Gang that left the Depression-era gangster dead.

A bitter disagreement between the House and Senate whether to expand the federal Medicaid healthcare program for the poor caused the regular session to end without a budget April 28. The legislature, which is Republican-controlled, held a 19-day special session that ended Friday with passage of the budget.

The bulk of Scott’s tax-cut package was a $226 million reduction in the communications services tax on cellular phones and cable television bills. It also includes a 10-day “sales tax holiday” for back-to-school shopping and an exemption for college textbooks.

"Florida recently surpassed New York to become the third-largest state," Scott said, "and this budget continues making Florida the most efficient government in the nation by driving down the cost of bureaucracy and eliminating burdensome red tape."

(Editing by David Adams and Lisa Von Ahn)