BRADENTON, Fla. - Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a record $77 billion budget for fiscal 2015 into law June 2 that includes one of the largest authorizations for bond financing in recent years.
Scott, a Republican seeking his second term in office this year, used his line-item veto power to ax $69 million from the spending plan - the smallest amount since becoming governor.
Most of the expenditure cuts were for special hometown projects sought by individual lawmakers, and included parks, a farmer's market, festivals, an amphitheater, a baseball museum in Tampa, a state employee wellness pilot project, an obesity therapy program, a Caribbean Chamber student summer program, boating safety, and a public ballet school.
The $77 billion budget - $3 billion more than Scott recommended to the Legislature in January - includes $27.9 billion for the general fund and $3.1 billion in reserves for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Total reserves are 10.3% of general revenue funds.
The new spending plan is expected to authorize about $2.7 billion in bonds, one of the largest authorizations in recent years. The exact amount is unavailable because the related "truth in bonding" statement listing projects is not yet available.
Some $2.4 billion of bonds are authorized for the Florida Department of Transportation's massive Ultimate Interstate 4 expansion and renovation project through Orlando.
In his transmittal letter to the secretary of state, Scott said the approved budget "cuts taxes for Florida families, holds the line on tuition and provides historic levels of education funding in Florida."
It provides for $500 million in tax cuts, most of which had been increased during the lean years to cover deficits.
"The tax cuts in this budget will also help Florida maintain positive economic momentum as our state's economy continues to add jobs and opportunities for families," Scott wrote. "Florida's unemployment rate is down to 6.2% and has remained below the national average for nine consecutive months."
Among the vetoed funding measures, Scott eliminated $3.25 million for Stetson University's science center lab, $1 million for Winter Haven Hospital's rural outreach program, $2 million for a civil legal assistance program, $2.5 million for apiary research, and $2 million for a "driving in the right lane" public education campaign.
The city of Miami was a big loser when Scott removed $1 million in park funding and $2 million for public transportation improvements for a commercial project called SkyRise Miami.
The proposed $430 million Miami project, to be built on city land that will be leased, includes a 1,000-foot-tall observation tower with fine dining, a bungee jump platform, and a vertical ride sending thrill-seekers plummeting 50 stories, according to published reports.