Miami-Dade has most to lose with line-item budget veto

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Gov. Rick Scott has begun to sharpen his line-item veto red pencil.

At greatest risk of line-item vetoes is Miami-Dade County, with the most money to lose as the governor begins cutting the record election-year budget, according to Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida.

South Florida lawmakers crammed 323 separate line items for Miami-Dade, according to the recently released Florida House list of county-by-county allocations.

In the state’s spending plan, Miami-Dade gets $1.82 billion, primarily for a range of water and transportation-related projects, as well as schools, historic preservation, cultural facilities and community services.

Orange, Alachua, Leon and Hillsborough Counties are also at the top of the funding list, but Miami-Dade houses both a state university and a college needing extensive resources to operate.

June 4 is the deadline for Scott to put his signature on the record-setting $77.1 billion budget, but the governor’s office is keeping mum on the review process and when he will sign the spending plan.

“Our office will work within the June 4 deadline to produce a final tax cut budget that invests in Florida’s future, puts the state on a path toward continued job growth and provides Floridians with half a billion dollars in tax relief,” according to spokesperson John Tupps in an email discussing the budget process.

Last year, Scott used his line-item veto power to slash $368 million from the initial $74.5 billion budget. In 2012, he cut $142.7 million and $615 million during his first year in office.

Lobbyist Brian Ballard, one of the 25 registered to advocate for Miami-Dade County is enthusiastic that a majority of items will survive Scott’s veto, adding that the governor’s office gives the impression to be “receptive to much of the county’s initiatives.”

Ballard’s confidence comes in part from people learning how to work with the governor, especially after several lean budget years, office promising to cut spending and reduce legislative earmarks.

“People have had the experience of working with this administration and understanding what standard of proof is needed and how you cross the various checklists off,” Ballard told the News Service. “I know it’s been a work in progress for us and the folks we work with.”

Among the Miami-Dade line items are $20,000 for the Cannonball Miami Inc., a non-profit arts advocacy; $10 million for added access the proposed SkyRise Miami tower; and $137 million for widening a three-mile section of the Homestead addition of Florida’s Turnpike, increasing it from six to 10 lanes.

Following Miami-Dade in the number individual lines items in the budget is Broward County with 145. However, even with a number of pricy highway projects, as well as $86 million for Broward College, it still wasn’t enough to put the South Florida county in the top five for total dollars in next year’s budget.

The next four counties with the most money, after Miami-Dade, are Orange, with $1.32 billion; Alachua, at $1.12 billion; Hillsborough, at $936 million; Leon, with $891 million; and Duval, which could see as much as $847 million.

Broward comes next, with $786 million.

Grants and aid to the University of Florida helped boost Alachua County, who could be getting as much as $950 million for higher education. Tallahassee’s Florida State and Florida A&M universities help bring Leon County more than $730 million.

In Orange County, the University of Central Florida is responsible for $566 million.

At the bottom of the funding list for the state’s 12 universities, Turner notes, is New College of Florida gets only $24 million, and Florida Polytechnic University, scheduled to open this fall, is slated for $38 million of Polk County’s $191.1 million.

The lowest funded county is Gilchrist County in North Florida, with only $1.3 million to be sued for six projects. Gilchrist, as well as other counties at the bottom of the funding scale, are often rural and frequently inland, either across the northern part of the state, such as Liberty, Lafayette, Hamilton, Dixie, Union, and Jefferson. Others are in the northern or western edge of Lake Okeechobee, including Okeechobee, Highlands and Hendry Counties.

In the middle is Pasco County, home base of House Speaker Will Weatherford, and House Health and Human Services Chair Richard Corcoran. Pasco landed 38 projects for a total of $157 million.

Pasco County’s total includes nearly $37 million for Pasco-Hernando State College — $10 million for a performing arts center included in the $121 million of budget “turkeys” recommended for veto Friday by Florida TaxWatch.

Senate President Don Gaetz represents six Panhandle counties (either partially or in full) – Bay, Holmes, Jackson, Okaloosa, Walton and Washington — that may see a combined $455 million spread over 145 projects.

County-by-county funds do not include multi-county appropriations, such as an artificial fishing reef creation and restoration costing $9.9 million for Bay, Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton Counties.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.