TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis has yet to receive the legislature’s $112.1 billion budget, but in election-year appearances statewide, he declared his approval of about $2 billion. of projects and programs within the spending plan.
That’s less than 2% of the total package, but the ads touched on what will likely be popular spending. They included approving $800 million to raise teachers’ salaries; $400 million for broadband expansion; $125 million to cover premiums for first responders; $80 million for a new “state-of-the-art” trauma center at UF Health Jacksonville; $30 million for rural infrastructure; $30 million to help manatees; and $14 million for red tide research.
In an announcement Monday about approving $125 million for nursing programs, DeSantis said more funding was loosely tied to nursing in the overall budget (HB 5001).
“I haven’t decided to veto any of those just yet,” DeSantis said during an appearance at Seminole State College of Florida in Sanford. “And so, we’ll see how we go.” We haven’t completed the full review. But however that comes out, I think almost certainly you’ll see a very significant amount of money going to both state colleges, actually some school districts, as well as universities, to be able to expand some of the facilities which they have. ”
Even if he uses his veto power to cut $1 billion from the budget, as he did in 2020, or $1.5 billion, as he did in 2021, most of the spending passed by lawmakers in March will be approved. Additionally, lawmakers have largely responded to DeSantis’ budget requests on numerous issues, such as tourism marketing, the state’s transportation plan, natural spring protection and Everglades programs.
Fueled by federal stimulus funds and an influx of higher-than-expected state tax revenues, lawmakers inflated the record spending plan. But questions remain about how DeSantis will view the projects that lawmakers have squeezed into their districts’ and communities’ budgets.
The Tallahassee-based Florida TaxWatch offered cuts of $281 million on 166 budget items it dubbed “turkeys.” Its annual list is based on whether spending has been subject to public scrutiny before landing in the budget, rather than on the economic merits of projects or whether citizens need them.
TaxWatch also asked DeSantis to take a closer look at the 1,221 local projects. But some of them are already safe, based on recent announcements from DeSantis.
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Among local spending supported by DeSantis are $22 million for road resurfacing projects and law enforcement pay raises in Gilchrist County; $10 million for flood mitigation and work on two fire stations in Dixie County; $6.2 million for park maintenance, law enforcement salaries, school security, and Lafayette County Sheriff’s Office communications; and $880,000 for the Crossroads Fire Station in Hamilton County
DeSantis also said he would sign $25 million for the Freedom Tower renovation in Miami. The nearly century-old tower, now affiliated with Miami Dade College, has become a South Florida rallying point as it was used to process Cuban refugees in the 1960s.
“We said what we were going to do. We fought for this money. And I want to thank the Legislature for serving the people here in South Florida,” DeSantis said May 9 while in the tower.
DeSantis applied for Freedom Tower funding in November.
Money tied to bills DeSantis recently signed into law is also veto-proof.
For example, $34.4 million will be used to recruit law enforcement officers from other states and retain existing officers (HB 3).
Additionally, a bill (HB 7065) signed by DeSantis will provide $70 million for programs to help fathers find jobs, manage child support obligations and get out of incarceration.