Rick Scott's veto list sets a record at $615 million, which he unveiled before a crowd of retirees and Tea Party supporters at The Villages in Central Florida.
Taxpayers, however, were blocked from the budget signing even though Scott had claimed he would answer their questions. Even those merely holding Democratic leaning signs were escorted off the property by sheriff's deputies, similar to recent Republican town hall meetings, where asking questions can even get those asking arrested.
The ceremony was more like a Tea Party campaign rally than a budget ceremony. Lots of talking points like Scott's tiring and ironic "Let's Get To Work" slogan, which he asked school children to chant who were gathered as a backdrop for the Governor as he made even more cuts to education.
Scott instead placed the blame for the education cuts on the Florida legislature.
$10 million for the University of South Florida Health School of Pharmacy and $100,000 for the Family Justice Center in Hillsborough County.
The budget, which takes effect July 1, reduces state spending on K-12 public education by $545 per student, eliminates funding for affordable housing and pays hospitals 12 percent less to care for the poor and disabled. Cuts made across state agencies will eliminate 4,500 state jobs.
Thursday's signing, which Scott streamed live on his campaign website, followed TaxWatch's release on Tuesday of a list of 105 budget "turkeys" to amounting $203 million. The business-backed fiscal watchdog calls for vetoes every year of so-called spending turkeys that lawmakers slip quietly into the budget instead of vetting publicly.
Among this year's turkeys was $500,000 for the Interdisciplinary Center for Neuromusculoskeletal Research at the University of South Florida Medical Research Center in Hillsborough. Scott vetoed that item.
Business tax cuts, $30 million worth, of course stayed in the budget.
The entire veto list from the job-killing budget can be viewed here.
Reactions to the budget:
This year Florida faced the largest budget shortfall in state history. Despite this challenge we passed a balanced budget without raising taxes or fees.
In addition the legislature reformed Medicaid, education and government pensions in order to produce long term stability. Our reform-minded agenda will bring predictability to Florida’s economy and attract new job creators to our state. That’s what this past session was all about – making needed changes to make Florida’s future even brighter.
We respect the constitutional rights of the governor and the Senate will thoughtfully review each of Governor Scott’s vetoes.
“The people of Florida sent us to Tallahassee to make hard choices during difficult times. We produced a responsible state budget that prioritizes the critical needs of our state, and I am proud that budget was signed into law.
“However, I feel compelled to respond to the Governor’s suggestion that the sum of his vetoes is available for re-appropriation to K-12 education and that doing so would fund education at or near the same level as last year. The Governor’s vetoes freed up less than $100 million in general revenue. If the Legislature were in session and could re-appropriate these funds, they would increase the FEFP by only 0.6 %, which would move the FEFP reduction from 7.9% to 7.3%.
“What is more surprising is the Governor’s sudden emphasis on K-12 education. The budget we sent him funds education at a higher level than the Governor recommended just a few months ago, when he proposed a 10% cut to the FEFP. The Governor communicated numerous priorities during session, and we did our best to accommodate him. It would have been helpful if the Governor had shared this new found emphasis with us before the budget was finalized.
“It is the Governor’s constitutional authority to veto line items in the budget, and I respect his decisions. The vetoes of general revenue appropriations will further increase the more than $2 billion the Legislature set aside in our state’s reserves, which will help protect our bond rating and ensure that we have ample reserves in the event of an emergency.”
“If he means the ‘jobs budget’ is killing jobs, then it’s an accurate title.”
“Governor Rick Scott’s signature on this Republican-crafted budget seals the fate of the middle class in Florida.
“Beyond the destructive cuts to our children in pre-K through high school, Florida’s universities and community colleges, hospitals and nursing homes, our police officers, firefighters, and teachers, remains the outrageous claim that this is a ‘jobs budget.’
“Only tea partiers under the control of billionaire right wingers could cheer such propaganda. Only the supporters of voodoo economics could honestly believe that firing 4,500 state workers followed by thousands more public school teachers in a state already drowning in pink slips will somehow create jobs.
“In just five months, Governor Scott has slammed the breaks on just about every meaningful project or program that would have made a difference in the lives of Floridians reeling from dropping home values, skyrocketing gas prices, surging property insurance rates, and fewer and fewer ways to get ahead. Floridians aren’t suffering from a lack of work ethic; they’re suffering from a lack of work.
“A true ‘jobs budget’ would have made the commitment to invest in our children, our community colleges and universities to create a first class public education system that draws investment and brings high paying jobs to Florida. It would have safeguarded transportation trust funds so that our roads and crumbling infrastructure can be repaired and improved, generating those promised jobs we’ve yet to see. It would have recognized the danger of handing off prison security to private companies whose single concern is profit margins. It would have seized the opportunity to put tens of thousands of Floridians to work by building a state of the art high speed rail system instead of tangling with the president. It would have recognized that cutting the pay and eliminating the jobs of the many middle class public servants who serve and protect our state is the real trickle-down effect, spilling over into local communities and businesses with devastating results. And it would have ended the ability of multi-millionaires to shirk their civic responsibilities by closing unfair tax loopholes.
“Unfortunately, none of these critically needed solutions appear in the budget signed today. Governor Scott talks a lot about creating jobs. But jobs are not what he’s delivering.”
And of course, from behind the scenes of Rick Scott's budget and vetoes, which he called "turkeys:"
TaxWatch Turkey List Used to Save Taxpayers Millions of Dollars
Florida TaxWatch’s President and CEO Dominic Calabro today released the following statement applauding Florida Governor Rick Scott for vetoing a historic $615 million in spending from the FY2011-12 budget.
“Today Governor Rick Scott made history by vetoing a record $615 million in spending from the FY2011-12 budget, including millions of dollars in cuts recommended in Florida TaxWatch’s 2011 Turkey Watch report. This was a bold move by a Governor in his first year and sends a powerful message to Floridians that he is serious about cutting spending and encouraging economic growth in our state. Today is a new day for Florida.”
A complete list of Florida TaxWatch’s budget turkeys vetoed today will be released later this afternoon
“Governor Rick Scott today made good on his campaign promise to not raise taxes and to reduce the size of government when he signed the 2011-2012 budget into law.
“While other states are raising taxes to balance their budgets, Governor Scott’s no new taxes approach to governing the state of Florida sends a clear message that Florida is open for business.
“Long gone are the days of putting off the tough decisions for another year. Governor Scott has demonstrated true leadership by making our government live within its means.
“The jobs budget that Governor Scott signed today recognizes that Florida has a generational opportunity to completely reset its economy. Free enterprise has created more wealth and private sector jobs than any other economic system in history, and today’s bill signing action is a refreshing sign that Governor Scott is clearly focused on making private sector job growth Florida’s state mantra.
“While we are disappointed in the loss of important trust fund dollars from Florida’s Transportation Trust Fund, we are especially pleased that taxpayers will no longer fully foot the bill for state employee retirement plans.
“On behalf of the Florida Chamber, we commend Governor Scott for taking bold steps to put Floridians back to work through strong efforts targeting education reform, regulatory relief, targeted tax reductions, and restructuring the state’s economic development system.”