Several Leon County projects fell victim to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ veto pen. They won’t get state funding for the upcoming fiscal year.
Rep. Ramon Alexander (D-Tallahassee) is disappointed by some of the vetoes. He pushed for a number of projects including one geared toward helping former inmates reenter the community. Ready 4 Work has gotten state funding for three consecutive years. He explained the program during one of the bill’s hearings.
“[Ready 4 Work] provides hope and direction to inmates and ex-offenders to live a productive life. Saves tax payers’ money, cultivates a safer community, strength and saves and sustains families of inmates of ex-offenders," said Alexander.
But Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed every local reentry program proposed this year, including Ready 4 Work. He says some projects just aren’t a state responsibility.
“[There are] Certain things that I think have merit but are clearly a local responsibility, and If I fund something from one locality do I have to do it for everybody," said DeSantis.
That’s not the only local veto. The Orchard Pond Greenway Trail didn’t get approval for $300,000 to build a bike trail along Orchard Pond Parkway, a private toll road in north Leon County. Alexander hopes the project will still be funded in other ways. But says the private sector will have to step up.
"It’s going to be an all hands on deck with regards to coming up with other alternatives to fund critical projects that we believe make our local community special," said Alexander.
Two other vetoed items were aimed at helping juveniles in the workforce. The Leon Work Expo & Junior Apprenticeship Program helps student’s complete apprenticeships in auto maintenance, computer-aided design and IT. The program allows students to earn credits toward their high school diploma, gain work experience and earn an hourly wage while doing so.
The TEMPO program is aimed at helping 16 to 24 year olds who are out of work and school avoid jail or becoming victims of crime by helping them get education and employment. Alexander says without state funding it just means the community will have to do more.
“I do believe that there are critical areas of concern in regards to juvenile crime and youth prevention and intervention style programs. And I respect the methodology of the Governor and I believe it’s going to require all of our stakeholders; our private sector, our faith-based community and other regional partners to step up to the plate and bring skin to the game to protect our future," said Alexander.
Alexander says despite the cuts, he’s already planning projects for next year.
"Ideally, yes. Every member of the Florida legislature would like for every project that they get through the process to be funded. But, we’re going to come back we’re going to be optimistic," said Alexander. "We’re not going to yell at people we’re going to talk to people. And we’re going to work in a bipartisan way to improve the quality of life for our citizens."
And Alexander points out the area had some wins as well.
“[There was] $24.8 million for Florida A&M University which was not vetoed. Mental health funding which was not vetoed. And a wide range of other projects that we were able to bring in. Sewer project planning dollars for Midway in Gadsden County.”
The next session starts in January. Committee weeks are three months away in September.