Tallahassee, FL – Governor Rick Scott signed Florida's budget on the road this week, making it a campaign-style event before a friendly crowd in a Republican and Tea Party dominated part of the state. Lynn Hatter reports, before a mostly white and retired crowd in the Villages, Scott made a show of vetoing more than 600-million dollars worth of spending items, angering many lawmakers who called that number, and the governor's intent, into question.
At 29-percent, Governor Rick Scott's approval rating may have sunk to a new low, but don't tell that to his supporters in Central Florida's retirement community, The Villages. There, he's practically a rock star among some of his early supporters, like Tri County Tea Party President Pamela Dahl.
"We've supported Rick Scott from day one in our Tea Party, We were the first ones to invite him out to our Tea Party when he was running for office. We have been up to Tallahassee several times to support him, we write letters to him on things we agree with or don't agree with the respects us for what have to say to him, he respects the Tea Parties and we respect him for the things he's done."
Basking in the support, and in the sun against a lakeside backdrop and school children strategically positioned on his right, Scott announced vetoes totaling 615-million dollars, and he told lawmakers how to spend it.
"And I'm confident most of us agree that school funding is far more important than spending those dollars on alligator marketing, or boat racing, or anything else the Tallahassee insiders seem to think is so important. I ask you to join me in calling on the legislature to convert special interest dollars earmarks-- into more dollars for our students."
But legislative leaders aren't impressed. In a statement, House Speaker Dean Cannon openly questioned Scott's math. Cannon says that 615-million is actually closer to 100-million in hard-cash. A big ticket item was the money for Florida forever at 300-million, but those dollars were based off projected land sales. Money for college and university repairs were vetoed to the tune of about 200-million but those dollars were based off how much schools could borrow. And House majority leader Carlos Lopez Cantera questioned when the governor had a change of heart when it comes to education funding.
"I was a little surprised by the governor's new-found emphasis on education. The Florida legislature passed a budget that had a three-percent less cut to education than the governor proposed in his own budget in January. And if he would have let us know about this when we were still in session, maybe we could have made some changes to accommodate him."
The governor's original budget proposal called for a 10-percent cut to public school funding. The legislature settled on seven-and-a-half. The Governor's response:
"As you know in the campaign I put out a specific platform on how we need to improve education and move it to the 21st century, and make sure we take care of our kids, we're focused on things like expansion/competition through charter schools, expansion of virtual education, all things that will improve education in this state."
Scott labeled the vetoes as special interest projects. Other vetoes include Community health centers in Duval, Apopka and Gadsden counties. The popular KIPP Charter school program, job placement programs across the state and aid to counties affected by last summer's gulf oil spill.