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How Rick Scott vetoes will hit the $500 million mark ($615m?)

Looks like the previous blog we wrote, where sources said Scott was eyeing a minimum of $350 million in vetoes was right (updated blog here). But it could be off by almost half, said one source. Folks close to the governor say there's a path for Scott to cut $700 to $800 million.

But chances are, he won't veto that much. "Little high," said another. Hmm. Key word: "Little."

Another source tells us $615 million.

So $500-$600 million seems like a good number. There's something about "Half a billion dollars" that has a fiscally conservative ring to it. And remember, the budget is as much about policy as it is politics. Still, Scott is taking his time to make sure all the numbers add up.

"He's really impressive. He's really taking his time learning the budget, literally going line-by-line and asking 'What's the purpose of this? Do we need this?'" said one source. "He's more involved than Jeb Bush."

Bush, governor from 1999-2003, loved big vetoes and established a clear process for deciding what projects to keep and what projects to scuttle. He even donned the nickname "Veto Corleone" and would joke that he "whacked" line items in the budget.

But his successor, Gov. Charlie Crist, outdid him with $459 million in vetoes in a single year, 2007.

Now Scott wants the record.

"He wants to be the veto king," said another source.

Cutting $700-$800 million would annoy legislators. And it would open a new hole in education funding of $150 million because Scott is leaning heavily toward cancelling a $150 million raid on the state transportation trust fund, the money for which is directly supposed to be spent on education. Cutting the raid cuts the money.

Scott has hinted in media interviews this morning that he'll want legislators to plug some of his veto money back into education, so it seems like the trust fund-sweep veto is likely. But whether the Legislature comes back and plows the money back into the K-12 system is an open question. Presumably, when the Legislature reconvenes in January, it could plug the hole then since lawmakers will be just starting the second quarter of the fiscal year and school money is distributed quarterly.

Scott may ask lawmakers to plug even more of his vetoed money into the K-12 system (even though he called for deeperK-12 cuts himself). Otherwise, all the vetoed cash goes into savings, which are relatively healthy at $2.4 billion.

Here's how we get to $728 million in vetoes (Note: This is speculation, not from a source):

$150 million from state transportation trust fund

$277 million from college construction projects (but he probably won't cancel the full list)

$181 million from cancelling tuition hikes

$120 million from whacking hometown spending projects that range from mosquito control to county health departments to meals for seniors to an aquaculture project. (Lawmakers say Scott tacitly signed off on some of the projects)

Scott could also cancel SunRail, but considering everything else, that looks like too much of a third rail right now.

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