Sen. Jack Latvala railed against Gov. Rick Scott's veto of $461 million in legislatively approved projects Tuesday, saying the veto means "the governor has declared war on the Legislature" and predicted he will face continued deterioration of relations with the Republican-controlled body.
"There’s stuff in there that he has approved in the past,'' said Latvala, R-Clearwater, chairman of the Senate budget committe on transporation and economic development. He cited the Miami project on paralysis research and the pay raise for forestry firefighters as examples of projects Scott has recommended in his budgets in the past but are now on the lengthy veto list.
Latvala directed the blame directly at the governor's staff and, primarily, his chief of staff, Melissa Sellers, who formerly worked for Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
"The governor is not being well served by these kids from Louisiana,'' Latvala told the Herald/Times. "I don't recall a governor's office as unresponsive as that one is. They’ve got him totally isolated. You can’t have a meeting without Melissa sitting there. She totally controls the agenda but what are her credentials to do that? She won a campaign."
Latvala criticized the governor for delegating to staff who have little understanding of the budget, the legislative process and make little effort to understand the details.
"The advice is dead wrong,'' he said. "There are so many inconsistencies in the ways those things are applied. They don’t even know what he asked for before."
He noted that at the advice of staff he is "in campaign mode all the time.'' He accused the governor of "rushing" the budget announcement. (It was announced on the same day that Scott and the Cabinet approved using more than $228,000 in taxpayer money to end a lawsuit against them for violating the state's open meetings law.)
"Some times you have to be in a public service mode,'' Latvala huffed. "Some times you have to be in a governing mode. That's what Charlie Crist's problem was. The campaign is over and you have to start governing."
He predicted Scott "is going to have problems with the Legislature now, worse than he’s had in the past, and these people will go off and take jobs in presidential campaigns and he’ll be left holding the bag."