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Timing is everything: Rick Scott cuts budget for Bethel AME Church in St. Pete

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

With little fanfare, Gov. Rick Scott signed Florida’s record budget Tuesday morning, totaling nearly $80 billion.

And with an equal lack of surprise, Scott inserted more than $461 million in line-item vetoes – another state record.

Among Tampa Bay-area projects not surviving the chopping block was $240,956 set aside for the restoration of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Second Ave. South in St. Petersburg.

The project was not momentous, compared to many others that were dropped. No one would have considered it a “budget buster,” as some other items that did manage to make the budgetary cut.

But at this particular point in time, restoration of an AME church in Florida could be considered significant, and more than a little noteworthy.

AME denominations are important in the history of black Americans and have figured prominently in the news since the assault last week on a Bible study group at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The attack on the oldest AME in the South left nine people dead, including a respected state lawmaker.

Some observers saw the shooting at a black church – allegedly in an attempt to start a race war — as an attack on the fundamentals of black culture and history.

In Florida, at a time when political optics is almost as valuable as actual dollars, slashing the restoration of a piece of local African-American history is debatable.

Especially when the budget comes so close to a tragedy that intensified the issue of race in America.

As reporters, pundits and politicians sift through Tuesday’s “turkey hunt,” some will debate the logic (or wisdom) of cutting such a project – miniscule, in light of an $80 billion budget – at such a sensitive time for America.

At the very least, it would have make a great talking point for Scott, who had little problem taking a victory lap Monday over $400 million in tax cuts in the budget.

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.

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