The two most powerful men in the Florida Legislature are steering millions of dollars to community colleges in their districts.
Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, helped approve a list of allocations for state college projects that included $14 million for the advanced technology center at Panama City’s Gulf Coast State College. That amount grew from an original Senate offer of a mere $300,000, but bloomed in a last-minute addition to $17.5 millon on Saturday before shrinking to $14 million on Sunday night, all with little discussion.
Another $6.9 million was approved for a new Pasco-Hernando Community College campus in Wesley Chapel, the home of Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford.
“The speaker has been engaged in this process from the start,” said Steve Schroeder, general counsel and executive director of governmental relations for the Pasco-Hernando Community College, which now has five campuses. “He’s helped us much as he can. He’s the one who got it in there for us this year.”
Despite a promise by Gaetz and Weatherford that they would bring an unprecedented level of transparency to budget negotiations, lawmakers approved the expenditures with little discussion this weekend.
Both projects are tucked in a $74 billion budget draft that is due in final form on Tuesday. Lawmakers vote on it Friday.