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Rick Scott signs budget, officially issues $256 million in spending vetoes

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Republican Gov. Rick Scott made it official Thursday night, formally signing the $82.3 million budget presented to him today by state lawmakers.

He also made official his list of line-item vetoes announced Tuesday, excising some $256 million in member-sponsored funding from the budget he today enacted into law.

“I will be signing this budget into law as soon as the Florida Legislature delivers it to me and withholding approval for approximately $256.1 million in projects that do not provide a significant return on taxpayer investment,” Scott said in a statement Tuesday.

Though the vetoes were met with chagrin of legislators across the state, many nonetheless breathed a sigh of relief Thursday evening at the fact Scott did not go further in cutting lawmaker-backed spending.

Among the spending axed by Scott included were several Tampa Bay area projects, which some observers said fared poorly compared to Jacksonville, which Mayor Lenny Curry recently boasted “knocked it out of the park” when it came to lobbying for 2016-17 funding.

Among the Tampa Bay spending left on Scott’s cutting-room floor: $11 million for construction of the Pasco-Hernando State College Performing Arts Education Center and $3 million for the Hillsborough Community College South Shore Campus, $100,000 for the Hillsborough Healthy Start Coalition; $500,000 for the Hillsborough County Fair; $250,000 for the East County Regional Service/Resources Center and $250,000 for the Pinellas Education Foundation Career Path Planning.

Though many of his priorities were ignored, Scott’s office continued to call the spending plan the “Florida First Budget,” sticking with the name of a budget proposal from November of 2015 the governor offered to legislators in keeping with Florida statehouse custom.

The $256.1 million figure, one might argue, is eerily close to the $250 million dedicated Florida Enterprise Fund Scott sought from lawmakers for economic development, which did not make it into the final budget.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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