Gov. Ron DeSantis, surrounded by top state legislative officials, signs Florida’s 2022-23 state budget at The Villages in Central Florida, June 2, 2022. From left to right, House Appropriations Chair Jay Trumbull; Senate Appropriations Chair Kelli Stargel; DeSantis; House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson. Senate President-Designate Kathleen Passidomo and state Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. also were attendance. Credit: Screenshot, Florida Channel.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the 2022-23 state budget of $109.9 billion on Thursday, slashing $3.1 billion in line-item vetoes from the original document approved by the Legislature in the spring. The governor acknowledged some “pork” in the hefty budget, often labeled pork barrel projects, turkeys, or local budget items that bring home the bacon for communities and constituents, but hundreds of projects were yanked.
DeSantis also pandered to the audience located in The Villages in Central Florida, which has been a stomping ground for DeSantis as well as former president Donald Trump.
The event Thursday was in indoors and DeSantis was surrounded by top legislative officials and the state Education Commissioner, but the scope of the announcement was broader than a state budget.
DeSantis spent time bashing President Joe Biden about what’s going on in the national political and economic setting in Washington D.C.
The atmosphere in The Villages was more like a presidential campaign than a gubernatorial election in 2022.
DeSantis told the crowd, “We have to look at what we’re doing against the backdrop of what’s going on in Washington, D.C. and particularly there’s a fella by the name of Brandon that people talk about, that we have to contend with.”
DeSantis was referring to a rallying cry of “Let’s Go Brandon,” which in conservative circles means “f—” Joe Biden.
The governor promoted the state budget in different areas including hefty increases for public education and teacher salaries. That said, the average teacher salary in Florida is still far below other states.
Before the vetoes, the Florida Legislature had compiled a $112.5 billion state budget for 2022-23. But DeSantis shaved some of that off considerably — with more than 400 local projects or other budget items cut, according to the veto document.
The veto list includes projects that are both local in nature but also can have statewide impacts, such as a $645 million new prison and $75 million for a University of South Florida – Environmental & Oceanographic Sciences Research & Teaching Facility. A $50 million project for road widening in Hernando County got tanked, as well as a $35 million sports training and youth tournament facility in Pasco County. Another $350 million for water quality improvements and Everglades Restoration was slashed.
Already, lawmakers whose projects were vetoed, are unhappy, at the very least.
Democratic State Rep. Allison Tant, who represents Leon County, in the state capital, said:
“I was disappointed to see the $1,000,000 in funds for America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend on the Governor’s veto list. At a time when Floridians are experiencing tough times and are facing an affordability crisis, vetoing funds to support food insecurity is wrong and goes against what Floridians need. During the height of the pandemic, the only meals many individuals in Leon and surrounding counties received were from Second Harvest. The state’s poorest and most food insecure zip code is Leon’s 32304. Second Harvest has worked to expand their footprint and the number of individuals they need to serve has only grown. These funds would have been used to expand their reach into even more counties and would have created new partnerships with community organizations in rural counties.”
Likewise, State Rep. Ben Diamond, a Democrat representing part of Pinellas County, was outraged about the USF’s $75 million facility.
“I am outraged that Governor DeSantis has vetoed funding for the University of South Florida’s new Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences Research and Teaching Facility. This center would have made St. Petersburg the preeminent hub for marine science research and instruction, and would have been a critical economic driver for our city – attracting federal research money, new jobs, and new private sector partnerships and innovation. This funding was a top priority of the University of South Florida because it was a smart investment in the future of our state.
“This is a devastating loss for St. Petersburg residents and all Floridians, as this new facility would produce critical research in Florida’s fight against climate change. As sea levels continue to rise, we must equip researchers with the tools and facilities to combat this enormous threat. While the Governor’s veto is a significant loss for the University of South Florida and the Tampa Bay region, I am committed to doing everything in my power to ensure USF’s vision for this project becomes a reality.”
Florida’s 2022-23 state budget begins July 1.
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