Compilation of statements and reactions to Gov. Rick Scott signing $77 billion budget

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott has signed into law a new $77 billion budget.

Scott signed the budget on Monday but he also vetoed nearly $69 million in individual spending items included in the budget. The governor has line-item veto power to eliminate spending on specific projects.

The vetoes included money for dozens of hometown projects sought by legislators including money for a Miami observation tower and a dog park.

The overall budget is roughly 3.5 percent higher than last year’s budget and includes a boost in money for schools, child welfare and projects to battle water pollution.

Legislators came into this year’s session with a $1.2 billion budget surplus. They used some of the extra money on dozens and dozens of hometown projects.

Here is Gov. Scott’s budget letter:

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Here’s what Florida’s elected officials, politicians and organizations are saying about Gov. Scott signing the budget into law:

Senate President Don Gaetz:

“Governor Scott has remained faithful to his fiscal conservative principles by approving the largest broad-based tax cut in a decade and by affirming the Legislature’s commitment to set aside more than $3 billion in reserves. These fiscally prudent building blocks of the state budget will safeguard Florida’s future and secure meaningful tax relief for every family and business in our state.

“I am grateful to Governor Scott for signing into law a budget that provides an unprecedented level of funding for education and fully funds the Legislature’s efforts to create a more effective, more professional, and more accountable child welfare system. Through this budget, Children’s Advocacy Centers will see increased funding needed to provide enhanced services to children who have been victims of abuse and neglect, the Guardian Ad Litem program will receive funding needed to facilitate the maximum current year expansion, and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities will be able to serve more Floridians on the critical needs waiting list.

“Additionally, the budget signed into law by Governor Scott ensures that the state rewards universities that cement the link between education and jobs and allocates funding for increased student access to Career and Professional Education (CAPE) industry certification opportunities in order to further expand economic opportunity through education.”

House Speaker Will Weatherford:

“Today, Governor Scott signed a balanced budget that provides the largest commitment to public education in Florida’s history, cuts taxes by $500 million and makes significant investments in our higher education system, transportation infrastructure and the environment. With Governor Scott’s leadership, we were able to pass a bipartisan budget that cuts taxes while also setting aside more than $3 billion in reserves.

These past two years, House Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel has presided over a budget process that has made every member of the Florida House proud. I appreciate his commitment to ensuring Florida’s fiscal needs are met in a way that maximizes every dollar.”

Senator Joe Negron:

“The budget signed into law by Governor Scott is a conservative spending, saving and investment strategy for the state that represents the work product and approval of every single member of the Senate.

“By setting aside over $3 billion in reserves, which total more than 10 percent of general revenue, and prioritizing a $500 million broad-based tax cut that will impact Florida families and businesses for years to come, the Governor and Legislature demonstrated a shared commitment to responsible stewardship of limited taxpayer dollars.

“I am grateful to Governor Scott for preserving the Legislature’s decision to fully fund a comprehensive list of investments to improve the environmental and economic health of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee River Systems and the Indian River Lagoon. This critical funding will allow our state to take the steps necessary to restore this vital natural resource as we continue to work with the federal government to explore long-term solutions.”

Florida Democratic Party:

“Over the last three years, Rick Scott has made it clear to Floridians that lining the pockets of special interests comes before doing what’s right for the middle class. Rick Scott underscored that fact today by signing a budget packed with hundreds of millions in pork barrel spending and taxpayer giveaways. Per-pupil education funding remains below 2007 levels. Bright Futures scholarships have been slashed to the bone. Nearly one million Floridians still lack access to affordable health care. In a reelection campaign where Rick Scott is trying desperately to run away from his failed record, one thing has not changed: Rick Scott takes care of the wealthy special interests while ignoring the needs of middle class Floridians.” 

Americans for Prosperity’s Chris Hudson:

“Governor Scott has continued to fulfill the promises he made to Floridians when he was elected, by cutting taxes trimming the fat in state government, and working to push Florida’s economy to be the best in the nation. HB 5001 includes $500 million in tax and fee cuts for Florida’s families, more than $600 million in savings from improved efficiencies in state government operations, an increase in state reserves, and the continued pay-down of the state debt. This budget sends the message that Florida is focused on the long-term growth of economic opportunity and prosperity for all its families and businesses.”

Associated Industries of Florida:

“AIF applauds Governor Rick Scott for signing the state budget into law today that positively impacts Florida businesses and families in a myriad of ways, such as water initiatives, taxes and fees reduction, and economic development to name a few.

“We thank Governor Scott for his leadership and the Florida Legislature for their hard work in ensuring our state continues to foster an environment that allows Florida businesses and families to grow through new economic opportunities, while at the same time keeping their hard-earned dollars in their pockets.”

Florida chapter of the Assisted Living Federation of America’s Gail Matillo:
“We are thrilled that Governor Scott today signed a budget into law that increases funding to the ACS program for LMH licensed assisted living facilities. FL ALFA, which represents professionally-managed senior living communities, supported and advocated for this increase, as we understand the significant cost involved in caring for individuals who reside in limited mental health facilities and who have severe and persistent mental illness.”
“Today is important in meeting the needs of those Floridians, as there has not been an increase in the Medicaid ACS funding since it was established more than 13 years ago. And, with this additional funding, more than 15,000 of our state’s most vulnerable citizens will be able to reside in their homes and continue to pay for needed services.”
“FL ALFA would also like to thank Senator Aaron Bean, Senator Denise Grimsley, Representative Matt Hudson and Representative Matt Gaetz for their support in making this issue a priority.”

 Florida Education Association’s Andy Ford:

“Yes, there was a modest increase in the budget for public schools. But we’re spending less per student than we spent in the 2007-2008 school year. This Legislature found even more money for even more tax breaks for corporations, but schools still aren’t funded at the level they were seven years ago.

“For seven years we’ve been starving our schools despite the growth in the number of students we’re educating. This budget represents a squandered opportunity for the governor and the Legislature to make a significant investment in Florida’s public school students.”

Florida TaxWatch’s Dominic Calabro:

“The state budget provides historic levels of funding for children, families, and K-12 education, which helps to invest in Florida’s future growth. Overall, Florida taxpayers should be pleased with the investments our state will be making in the new year.”

Florida Ports Council:

@FloridaPorts: Thank you to @FLGovScott for signing a budget that supports #flaports and will help Florida grow as a global commerce center.

Foundation for Florida’s Future’s Patricia Levesque:

“We were glad to see the budget thoughtfully included $40 million in funding to help bring digital technology into more classrooms. The Legislature’s investment for the digital classrooms initiative will take Florida another step forward in ensuring our students have a high-quality digital learning environment.”

“The budget also includes $18.4 million to fund Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSAs) – to be authorized through Senate Bill 850 – to give families of students with unique abilities more flexibility and customization in their education. We know all students learn differently, and many benefit from educational choices beyond those traditionally offered. PLSAs will give families of students with certain disabilities the freedom to create education plans custom-made for their children.”

“… It was a good session for Florida students, and with the budget now signed, districts and schools can be assured that these policies will be funded in the year ahead.”

Baptist Health South Florida’s Wayne Brackin:

“We are extremely disappointed about today’s veto of the appropriation providing funds to develop an “eICU” pilot program at a rural hospital in Florida.

“Baptist Health South Florida was a pioneer in the development of eICU, a highly sophisticated system that provides enhanced monitoring and care for critically ill patients.  The appropriation would have provided start-up costs for a rural hospital to initiate an eICU and take advantage of Baptist Health’s advanced technology and expertise. Critical care physicians cannot possibly be in every ICU in every hospital, and the eICU would have allowed a rural hospital to keep patients in their community and treat severely ill patients in their own community hospitals rather than transferring them to faraway medical centers.

“Innovation and technology, such as eICU, are the vanguard of the future of healthcare. This project was specifically chosen to demonstrate how technology can be economically leveraged to improve quality while at the same time reducing costs, an advance that should be welcomed by all.  It’s unfortunate to lose such an extremely worthwhile program of $275,000 in a $77 billion budget.  The eICU program was not part of the $120 million identified as “turkeys” by Florida Tax Watch.

“The eICU programs leverage technology to bring additional clinical experts, such as critical care physicians, to every ICU bed, in addition to the onsite doctors, nurses and staff.  Having this “second set of eyes” monitoring patients constantly brings enhanced clinical expertise and resources – and better outcomes for patients.

“The meaningfulness of this appropriation was to open the door, and the minds, of our State to this undeniable path to increased access and quality at a time in which healthcare providers are facing increasing pressure to improve the quality of care while cutting costs.

Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s Bob Rohrlack:

“On behalf of our 1,200 members in Tampa and across the Tampa Bay region, I want to thank Governor Scott for signing the State Budget and approving the major projects that were a priority for our members in 2014. I also want to thank our members and Legislators for making the case to the Governor that supporting our hospitals, ports and cultural facilities is a critical tool for economic development in Florida.” 

“We want to thank all those who supported this appropriation, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Hospital Association, along with the vision of the legislators who placed the appropriation in Florida’s budget.”

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman:

“I am incredibly disappointed that Governor Rick Scott vetoed the Agenda 2020 plan funding. He clearly failed to see the value of this community initiative, its impact on reducing poverty, and its rich potential to get Floridians back to work – the hallmark of the governor’s platform. Unfortunately, election-year politics appears to have trumped the needs of the people today.

“To those who wrote in support of Agenda 2020, as well as Speaker Weatherford, House Budget Chair McKeel, and those members of our delegation, I again offer my thanks for their work and dedication.

“It is important to note that Agenda 2020 is just one part of our Urban Affairs strategy for the City of St. Petersburg. We will continue to work hard on behalf of St. Petersburg citizens living in poverty and in our urban areas.

“Although I am most disappointed in the veto of Agenda 2020, St. Petersburg did achieve some successes in the budget signed by the governor. I again am thankful for the support of our delegation and the many members of our community who advocated for these efforts. I look forward to working with our delegation and the other leaders in Tallahassee next year.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this post.

 

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.