Gov. Charlie Crist just announced he vetoed $371 million from the state budget, making it weigh in at $70.2b** (see note below). The biggest cut: A $160m raid on the state Department of Transportation trust fund. The money was tied to K-12 spending in an effort, so the Legislature thought, to block Crist from making a veto or risk cutting education spending.
Crist did it anyway, all but daring the Republican-led Legislature or whomever else to sue him in order to cut money from road projects -- the only projects that conservatives across the board said represented true "stimulus" in the stimulus package that they maligned before gobbling up all that extra federal cash.
"We should not have to chose between jobs for Floridians or funding for our children's education," Crist said in his veto statement.
But since the money is tied to schools, Crist technically cut school spending by $160 million, unless he can find a way to plug money back into the class room. Technically, legally, the Legislature is the only entity that can appropriate money. So it's unclear how Crist can avoid being forced to "chose between jobs for Floridians or funding for our children's education."
Crist has made legally questionable vetoes before, such as his decision to block a tuition increase in 2007 or his veto last year of a pay cut for state workers. Like this year's road-schools issue, those spending items were intertwined with other parts of the budget that should have suffered as a result of a veto. But no one sued. So Crist was never checked.
What's different this year? Crist is no longer a Republican, having abandoned the party due to the strength of Marco Rubio's Senate campaign.
Rubio's closest political friend, Rep. David Rivera, was the House budget chief this year. Crist vetoed Rivera's budget language that sought to ban the use of state money for embryonic stem-cell research. It looks like Crist vetoed the most out of Miami-Dade county ($64.5 million), perhaps no surprise considering it's the biggest county and home of Rivera and Rubio.
Crist also vetoed $39.5 million in construction projects for Florida International University, Rivera's alma mater and a Rubio employer. He also cut $500,000 for Exponica, a Miami cultural festival, $50,000 for the Caribbean Chamber of Commerce. Miami-Dade College was hit with $21 million in vetoes on its Hialeah campus. FIU also lost out on $1 million for a Democracy Conference linked to Rivera. Golden Beach, the affluent Miami-Dade city, lost a $150,000 appropriation for emergency generators. But Crist left extra money for Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital stand.
“Today, Charlie Crist once again put politics over people, particularly the people of Miami-Dade," Rivera said. "By vetoing critical educational and health initiatives, in Miami-Dade, all he did was hurt those inn our community who are served by these programs and public institutions.”
House whip Carlos Lopez-Cantera, also a Miami Republican, decried the vetoes: "Governor Crist, with the stroke of his pen, has eliminated thousands of jobs in Miami-Dade County."
The Senate's budget chief, JD Alexander, lost the $45 million appropriation for the University of South Florida's polytechnic campus in Polk County. USF also lost out an additional $1 million for a "wellness research" program.
House transportation budget chief Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, wanted $1 million for a project called Turkey Creek Road. It was vetoed.
Future Senate President Mike Haridopolos lost a $2 million appropriation for Kissimmee airport.
Democrat Chris Smith $1 million appropriation for Lauderhill performing arts center was vetoed.
In Winter Park, home of future House Speaker Dean Cannon, who withdrew his endorsement of Crist after an education veto by the governor, Crist cut $150,000 for a storm water project.
"Gov. Crist's actions are disappointing but not surprising," Cannon said in a statement.
Crist's closest political allies, senators Durrell Peaden and Mike Fasano, saw their projects survive. More here on that. Crist also let loads of other spending items, such as a Rivera-inserted project for a Miami-Dade senior center replete with a domino room. The Tax Watch business group identified other so-called "turkeys" that Crist didn't veto. That's here.
In his veto message, Crist said he approved some local projects that "served the most vulnerable, provided for job creation, or stimulated economic development."
**(Note: originally, we said the budget, after the $371m in vetoes would weigh in at $70 billion. But Crist vetoed $216m in cuts to nursing homes and some Medicaid providers. So that has the effect of spending more money, thereby reducing the bottom line value of the vetoes to about $155m).