BRADENTON, Fla. — Florida Gov. Charlie Crist Friday signed into law a $70 billion budget for fiscal 2011.
Crist vetoed $371 million for projects that he said did not receive adequate review and others that did not follow established processes or those that benefited only select groups.
The budget, which takes effect July 1, includes authorization for $918.1 million of bonds — the lowest amount in a decade. Crist had proposed $835.2 million of bonding in his January budget recommendation.
The largest veto was a $160 million sweep of the state transportation trust fund the Legislature wanted to support the general fund. That leaves $5.8 billion for the Department of Transportation’s work program.
In his veto letter, Crist said that with Florida’s economy on the edge of recovery, it is important that “government take positive steps in favor of economic activity and higher employment.”
“The Legislature’s decision to sweep the state transportation fund tips the balance by eliminating transportation projects and removing jobs from the market,” Crist wrote.
Some of the other big-ticket items Crist vetoed were a $35 million appropriation for a new campus at the University of South Florida, $32.5 million earmarked for a consolidated public health and academic program at Florida International University, and a $9.7 million grant for Shands Teaching Hospital at the flagship University of Florida in Gainesville.
“In reviewing every item in the budget, I have taken great care to fulfill my constitutional duty to ensure the appropriate use of the people’s money,” Crist said in a statement. “Additionally, the people of Florida deserve an open and transparent government so they have every opportunity to shape the services and programs they support with their taxes.”
The fiscal 2011 spending plan provides $22.3 billion for education, the largest element of the state budget.
It also funds a variety of programs aimed at creating jobs to whittle away at Florida’s 12% unemployment rate. Those include retraining workers and supporting competitive programs for commercial space operations at Kennedy Space Center as NASA winds down the shuttle program later this year.
The budget also includes authorization for the issuance of $453.9 million of public education capital outlay bonds, $132.6 million of turnpike revenue bonds, $83.1 million of infrastructure bank bonds, $101.2 million of right of way acquisition bonds, $114.8 million of grant anticipation revenue vehicle bonds, and $32.5 million of health care facilities bonds.
Most of the bonds will be 30-year debt. The bond authorization does not mean that all the debt will be sold in fiscal 2011.
Florida is rated AAA by Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings and Aa1 by Moody’s Investors Service.
This is Crist’s last budget. The one-term governor is running for a U.S. Senate seat and recently resigned from the Republican Party to run as an independent because of unfavorable polls compared to his rival, Republican Marco Rubio.