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Scott approves 12th university and vetoes four budget-related bills

 Florida will have a 12th university.

In a year when the state’s current 11 universities’ budgets are being cut by hundreds of millions of dollars, Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed a bill creating Florida Polytechnic out of the University of South Florida’s branch campus in Polk County — the final approval of the pet project of departing Senate President JD Alexander. 

Meanwhile, as the governor signed the bill Friday making Florida Poly Florida's 12th state university, he also vetoed four budget conforming bills. They are HB 5009, dealing with state employees' health insurance benefits; HB 5011, dealing with state technology; HB 5103, dealing with school readiness programs; and HB 5505, dealing with the Department of Financial Services, under the supervision of CFO Jeff Atwater.

Opposing the new university were students, faculty, Florida’s top business leaders and citizens all over the state, who felt that now is the wrong time to embark on an endeavor that will cost taxpayers for years to come.

“So many people worked so hard for so long on this campus,” said Gene Engle, a Lakeland realtor who chaired the USF Poly campus board and sits on the USF Board of Trustees. “You just feel like you had the rug snatched out from under you.”

The bill, slipped into the budget during the last Legislative session, circumvents a decision made last year by the Board of Governors. Also upon the urging of Alexander, the state university system governing board voted in November to allow the campus to split away only after meeting certain benchmarks, including a minimum enrollment and accreditation.

Alexander says the new university will be good for Florida because it will focus on science, technology, engineering and math.

-- Kim Wilmath and Steve Bousquet