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Florida Voices: Rick Scott Signs the Budget

May 25, 2011 - 6:00pm

House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park

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 governors suggestion that the sum of his vetoes is available for reappropriation to K-12 education and that doing so would fund education at or near the same level as last year. The governors vetoes freed up less than $100 million in general revenue. If the Legislature were in session and could reappropriate these funds, they would increase the FEFP by only 0.6 percent, which would move the FEFP reduction from 7.9 percent to 7.3 percent.

What is more surprising is the governors 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 percent 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 newfound emphasis with us before the budget was finalized.

It is the governors 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 states reserves, which will help protect our bond rating and ensure that we have ample reserves in the event of an emergency.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island

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 Floridas economy and attract new job creators to our state. Thats what this past session was all about making needed changes to make Floridas future even brighter.

We respect the constitutional rights of the governor and the Senate will thoughtfully review each of Governor Scotts vetoes.

Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston

Governor Rick Scotts 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, Floridas 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 brakes 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 arent suffering from a lack of work ethic; theyre 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 weve 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 multimillionaires 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 hes delivering.

Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando

Id like to congratulate Governor Scott on todays budget-signing and commend him for the collaborative approach he has taken while working with the Legislature. Our states nearly $4 billion budget deficit made this year especially challenging for the Legislature and the governor. I saw firsthand the amount of energy and hours of time dedicated by our Senate Appropriations chairmen and members of our appropriations committees. It was often painstaking to make necessary budget cuts while also protecting Floridas most vulnerable citizens.

Governor Scott used his discretion to veto budget items that he deemed unnecessary. Many of those funding issues are important to members of the Florida Senate, as well as the Floridians who are affected by programs in the state budget. Over the coming weeks I will visit with senators statewide as we carefully examine the governors vetoes and the budget as a whole. As elected representatives of the people of the state of Florida, it is our duty to thoroughly review the governors decisions while considering the wide-ranging needs of our diverse state.

House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami

I am proud of our members working hard to protect Florida taxpayers hard-earned dollars. Our budget responsibly constrained spending, limited the scope of government, and focused on stimulating job creation. More importantly, we accomplished this goal by refusing to raise taxes on our economically burdened citizenry.

We produced a realistic and dependable budget that prioritizes our spending on what is most important to ensure the safety and security of Floridians. I am pleased this responsible budget was signed into law.

While I respect the governors constitutional authority to veto line items in the budget, I am displeased by his mischaracterization of the Legislatures good-faith efforts to fund education. Our budget funds education at a higher level than the governor himself proposed in his budget recommendations. The House of Representatives has been consistent in our prioritization of quality education in the state of Florida from day one.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring

Facing the most difficult budget year in recent history, lawmakers did not waiver in their resolve to produce a realistic and responsible budget that offers achievable cuts in order to prioritize the critical needs of our state.

From the onset of the 2011 legislative session, it was our top priority to achieve necessary spending reductions to fill the $4.6 billion budget shortfall, without raising taxes or fees on hard-working Floridians. With Governor Scotts signature today, I am happy to report that we have accomplished that goal.

While the decisions we were forced to make were often not easy, they were necessary to achieve a fiscally sound, balanced budget for the state of Florida.

Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee

Governor Rick Scott signed the budget today in The Villages, a development populated by thousands of middle-class retirees, many of whom are former teachers, firefighters, law enforcement and middle managers, but not full-time Florida residents. Not only was Governor Scott out of town, but he is out of touch with the reality that is life for the majority of Floridians.

Yes, we faced a budget crisis, but it was of our own making. Florida is failing to collect hundreds of millions of dollars it is already owed, and not one attempt was made to go after our state's accounts receivable.'

This was a year of choices: We could have raised revenue to increase school funding, so that Florida would be more attractive to new investors, new residents, and new businesses, providing them and Florida businesses with the human capital to grow. Instead, we chose to cut education spending, which corporate executives will consider when making decisions to move companies and create jobs. Rest assured, the miniscule cut in corporate taxes will not offset their disappointment in our education system.

Florida accounted for the second highest number of foreclosures in 2010, second behind only California, the most populous state in the nation. Florida is responsible for the third highest unemployment rate in the nation at 11.1 percent and is home to one of the lowest high-school graduation rates ranking 43rd in 2009 at 60.8 percent according to Education Week magazine.

Lets get to work was supposed to be our motto this legislative session, but what our Republican Legislature got to work on was restricting the rights of women, lessening regulations for our most vulnerable, and balancing the budget by taxing our state employees, all while giving corporations a tax cut. Jobs were cut, not created, and I fear the decisions of this Legislature will negatively affect Main Street restaurants, shoe stores and auto repair shops in our state as almost a million public servants and retirees have less money to spend because of the choices made by Governor Scott and the Legislature.

Our strategies this session should have been focused on creating jobs by building our infrastructure, strengthening education, and concentrating on meaningful government reform. This could have been accomplished while collecting sales tax revenue we are already owed. This approach could lead to future growth and prosperity and empower all Floridians to make decisions to live healthy and productive lives.

I hope that I am wrong and that we dont live to regret the choices that were made this legislative session.

Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee

I am outraged and dismayed at Governor Scotts signing of the cuts only budget. The Republican-run Legislature passed a budget that is guaranteed to impact the lives of every Floridian. In the face of a global economic recession, core public services for the citizens of this state will be difficult to maintain. The ramifications hang over the citizens of District 8 like a wet blanket. I was disappointed the governor vetoed a Gadsden Mobile Health Care Unit to provide a basic level of health access to children and families in rural Gadsden County, and a veto of funding to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and Florida State University where they are cutting back on staff, reducing money for scholarships and closing the doors of many of their academic programs to meet its scholastic budgetary needs.

I say to Governor Scott, this is about real people, not just numbers on an Excel spreadsheet! State employees are the lifeline of this state and they have not had a raise in five years; now will have to endure a 3 percent salary cut, an income tax toward their pension. These same state workers, as well as all other working families, will be faced with making their own budget cuts and spending fewer dollars to stimulate the local economy. This is not the solution to our fiscal problems, but yet another hindrance to the fiscal progression of this state.

It is a grave disservice to the taxpayers of Florida that the budget was balanced on the back of government workers and cuts to spending for vital services in difficult economic times ahead. I understand that there is a need to reduce our deficit; however, I strongly disagree with the manner in which it will be reduced. As the leader of the state, the governor has a duty to the people that he is not fulfilling.

The governors approval of this budget package severely jeopardizes Floridas future. We must protect our core public systems such as education in order to secure a prosperous future and pave the way for an economic recovery. No matter how Governor Scott spins it, this budget impacts services that citizens care about -- education, health care, police, fire, roads. They will be slashed solely to pay for a massive tax cut for corporations. The budget signed today may very well be beneficial in helping Florida to balance its budget. This is not what Florida voters signed on for in November, and it is a shame that they are being treated in this manner. This should not be about the governor forcing through his ideology and increasing his personal agenda, but should be about governing responsibly to ensure you maintain vital services that so many Floridians depend on.

Furthermore, I am highly disappointed that after all of the talks and the effort to put ideas forward, we ended up with a cuts only plan that fails to address the real needs of the citizens of Florida. In a time where Governor Scott has pledged to provide resources to create jobs, the passing of this budget has done quite the contrary. It will eliminate 5,000 state jobs and does not stimulate employment growth. In Florida, there is a disconnect between what the governor wants and what Floridians need: jobs, and not a budget-signing celebration. Governor Scott was elected to meet the needs of the citizens of Florida, and signing this budget does nothing but neglect them. This should not be how Florida is governed; it is simply inconsiderate and irresponsible. So much for getting to work.

Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami

I am extremely outraged by Governor Rick Scotts veto today of over $25 million from Miami-Dade area programs. His vetoes make further cuts to Miami-Dade senior programs, medical research and social endeavors. The budget already contains profound cuts to public education and public workers, and these vetoes will exacerbate an already sad situation.

Cut from the Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Center Program were $300,000, and $400,000 for the DeAllapattah Hot Meals Program. These programs help many of Miamis most needy seniors by providingthem meals and a basic quality of life. The only pork in these programs is whats being served during lunch. Meanwhile, under Governor Scotts leadership, Florida corporations will enjoy new tax breaks and taxpayer money as it is pumped into private hands under the conservative movement of privatization.

During the 2011 session, I voted against this budget because it negatively affected our states public employees, education and seniors. With these additional vetoes, it is now very apparent that the governor has no interest in the quality of life for regular Floridians, but only cares about the bottom line of Big Business. Governor Rick Scott is an evil Robin Hood -- taking from the poor and giving to the rich.

Jose Gonzalez, vice president of governmental affairs, the Associated Industries of Florida

Today, Governor Rick Scott inked a fiscally responsible budget that puts Florida back on a path toward economic prosperity by making wise investments in areas that will lead to business expansion and job creation, while also shrinking a burgeoning government that exceeded our financial capacity to pay for it. Thanks to Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature, this budget was balanced without creating any new fees or taxes a burden neither taxpayers nor businesses could afford.

This budget also reflects savings realized through bold reforms that will modernize our Medicaid and public pension systems. Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) applauds Senate President Haridopolos, Speaker Cannon and all the leaders in both chambers who helped Florida join the ranks of a majority of states that require public employees to contribute to their own retirement, just as most public-sector employees do.

While AIF is disappointed the governor decided not to veto the sweep of the State Transportation Trust Fund, we are pleased with the many important economic development measures that were part of his original budget vision and will now come to fruition. Funding for Visit Florida, Space Florida and incentives that are a critical part of our economic development tool kit will ensure our tourism industry remains vibrant, help maintain Florida as a leader in the space industry, and attract new businesses to the Sunshine State.

It was a year when many tough choices had to be made. Both Governor Scott through his budget recommendations and the Legislature through the budget it sent forward to the governor, did an exceptional job of doing what was in the best interest of Floridas future.

Dominic Calabro, president and CEO, Florida TaxWatch

Today Governor Rick Scott made history by vetoing a record $615 million in spending from the FY 2011-12 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.

Bob Burleson, president, Florida Transportation Builders Association

Today, Governor Scott signed the budget without a line-item veto of the $150 million sweep from the State Transportation Trust Fund (STTF). Due to the actions of the Legislature, the multimillion-dollar raid was irrevocably tied to state education funding, and because of this our industry will suffer. We are beyond disappointed and frustrated with this development and the legislative course that has brought us to this point. Make no mistake, our disappointment and frustrations lie with the Legislature. We remain confident the governor would have vetoed this measure if it were not tied to education funding.

The Florida Transportation Builders Association (FTBA) urges the Legislature to right their wrong. By deliberately making the STTF raid veto-proof, they have tied Governor Scotts hands and are responsible for the potential elimination of thousands of Florida jobs. If they cannot hold a special session, they should reverse this sweep through the Joint Legislative Budget Commission and ensure the $150 million is put back into the trust fund. With more than a $300 million negative impact on the work program of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and thousands of jobs at risk, the Legislature should redistribute the states resources as a result of todays other vetoes, and the pre-existing budget surplus, and put it back into transportation.

Investing in Floridas transportation infrastructure not only helps reduce the states worsening congestion problems, but it also aids in the states re-emergence from our recent economic lows. Stripping funds from an industry which offers immediate economic stimulus is not the answer. In fact, for every $1 spent on road construction, $7 is returned to the economy.

The Florida Transportation Commission reminds us the revenues found in the State Transportation Trust Fund are collected from transportation-related user fees to help develop, maintain and improve Floridas transportation system. Using these fees other than for what they were collected to fund is bad public policy. We are disheartened that this is the route the Legislature decided to take and look forward to the steps the governor offers to remedy it.

Abigail MacIver, director of policy, Americans for Prosperity -- Florida

Governor Scott has taken a principled approach to the state budget, making it clear he intends for the budget to set a path for economic growth and individual prosperity in Florida.

Americans for Prosperity-Floridas 87,000 members expected the governor to take a bold stand against unnecessary government spending, and he has done that today. He has proven again that he is willing take on special interests and do what is right for the future of the state.

The governors vetos include a $400,000 study on casinos, $5 million for boat racing, $500,000 for a racehorse barn and $250,000 for rainwater collection -- examples of unnecessary special-interest projects. Instead of spending tax dollars on wasteful projects, he has asked the Legislature to redirect those dollars to education.

He is sending a message that government should focus on priorities when spending taxpayer dollars, eliminating wasteful projects and excessive government bloat and redirecting those dollars to essential services that benefit all Floridians, not just a select few. The governor made a clear statement that we must focus on long-term investments if we want our state to prosper.

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