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SkyRise Tower among the local projects vetoed by the governor

Gov. Rick Scott’s modest list of budget vetoes included $2 million for the controversial SkyRise Miami observation tower that had been a top priority of the Miami-Dade delegation, but most of the locally-sought projects survived.

“When you see a veto it kind of hurts a little but overall, I think we did very well,” said Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, chairman of the Miami Dade County legislative delegation.

Miami-Dade lawmakers originally sought $10 million to contribute to the $430 million observation tower to be located behind Bayside Marketplace and rising 1,000 feet into the air. But amid resistance from other legislators, they eventually whittled it down to $2 million with the condition that it would only be used on public infrastructure, such as sidewalks and driveways. The money was also contingent on the project securing $400 million in private-sector funding.

“The governor felt it wasn’t deserving of the merits, that’s fine,’’ said Gonzalez, who is serving his final term but he said he expects legislators to return next year for state money, when construction on the project is expected to be underway. “Maybe we can sell it then,’’ he said.

The governor also disappointed several other local groups by vetoing the following: 

  • $275,000 for an “eICU” pilot program at Baptist Health South Florida. The program would have allowed a rural hospital to link with Baptist Health physicians using advanced technology.
  • $500,000 for the substance abuse treatment facility, Here’s Help Opa-locka.
  • $1 million for improvements to MuseumPark in Miami. The money would have been used to pay for improvements to the museum park, contingent on a 50 percent match from the City of Miami.
  • $625,000 for Barry University for various programs at its schools of social work, school of professional and career education and its schools of medicine.
  • $205,000 to renovate the Historic Fulford Fountain in North Miami Beach.
  • $150,000 for Doral Business Council Expo.
  • $2.5 million for Regional Planning Councils.
  • $150,000 for single gender schools in BrowardCounty.
  • $500,000 for Pompano State Farmers Market.

The governor’s vetoes list, nearly one-tenth of the size it was in his first year, was a signal to some legislators and lobbyists that Scott was has listened, and learned. 

“Forgetting the politics of a campaign, governors historically get to a place of higher comfort with things in the budget based on their learning the process and the system,’’ said Ron Book, a lobbyist who worked on millions of dollars in local projects. “I don’t think this governor is different than others. To some extent, maybe he was more generous in part because of how much he took before.”

Scott came first came into office from a campaign where he took a hard right point of view, colored by the Tea Party small-government perspective. 

Gonzalez, chairman of the Miami-Dade County delegation, said he believes the governor may have had “a bit of a learning curve’’ between his first and last budgets.

“As he’s traveled the state, he may have talked to some mayors and local officials who told him this is why we need this,’’ said Gonzalez, a former member of the Hialeah City Council. “Now you realize state dollars can create jobs – whether it’s the building of an education center or something else, it could give a plumber or an electrician a job.”

Several priority programs of the Miami Dade delegation remained in the budget. Among them:

  • FIU Expansion/Youth Fair,  $10 million – Florida International University “Strategic Land Acquisition” to relocate the Youth Fair
  • Affordable Housing, $167.7 million – Rather than sweep the money from the trust fund intended to expand affordable housing and use it for general revenue, the budget sweeps only some of the funds this year, leaving $100 million for the State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP) program and $67.7 million for the  State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) program.  This amount is the smallest sweep of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund in seven years, but not full funding.
  • Miami Military Museum, $1 million – The money will be used to restore Naval Air Station Richmond Building No. 25 as the Miami Military Museum.
  • Miami International Agriculture, Horse & Cattle Show, $25,000 – Money will be use to market the show.
  •  Library grants, $29.8 million – Money would be divided among libraries statewide. This is a $3.36 million increase over the prior year.
  • Ludlam Trail Corridor, $3.4 million – This project had been recommended to be vetoed by TaxWatch.
  • Cultural & Museum Grants, $25.4 million – The grants include $300,000 for the History Miami Operation Pedro Pan Exhibit and $400,000 for the Miami Beach Holocaust Memorial.
  • Water project, $500,000 – The money will be used for the S.W. 157 Avenue Canal Project.
  • Miracle League Ballpark, $150,000 –The money will be used for the ballpark as part of the Miami-Dade Park system