A DeSantis veto vendetta? Or just a missed opportunity to communicate his fiscal philosophy?

by | Jun 18, 2023

In the aftermath of Governor Ron DeSantis’s recent budget vetoes, accusations and questions have swirled that the governor used his fiscal scalpel for political vendettas instead of sound budget-conscious conservativism. Among them is State Senator Joe Gruters, one of the few people in Florida who have stood by Donald Trump since 2015 through thick and thin. Gruters is now flatly pointing the finger at DeSantis and alleging that the vetoes targeting Sarasota were primarily driven by his steadfast support for Trump in the 2024 GOP primary:

Republican state Sen. Joe Gruters also slammed DeSantis, saying in a statement that the governor “took it out on Sarasota County” because Gruters endorsed former President Trump in the 2024 GOP primary.

“It’s mean-spirited acts like this that are defining him here and across the country,” Gruters said, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.  —Source: Orlando Sentinel

But a closer examination of the matter suggests that Gruter’s vendetta narrative depends largely on how one slices the data.

The Florida Senate website shows that less than $20 million worth of Gruters’s own appropriations requests got carved out of the budget by DeSantis. And while that may seem like a large figure to most people, it pales in comparison to other lawmakers’ districts which were victims of far more significant cuts. State Rep. Randy Maggard, for example, saw $38 million worth of his budget requests go up in smoke, thanks to DeSantis.

In fact, if we break down all of the budget line items that DeSantis vetoed, and assign them to the lawmakers who requested them, Gruters’ only ranks 9th on the list of all legislators (6th in the Senate).

That alone demonstrates that the vetoed line items impacting Sarasota aren’t an outlier. They fall squarely within the range of other metro areas, and significantly below those that saw the most drastic cuts. If the Governor were purely acting out of spite, it would be logical to expect Sarasota, represented by a perceived political rival, to bear a disproportionate brunt of the vetoes. This simply is not the case.

And in fact, Gruters made far more appropriations requests than DeSantis vetoed. His name appears on a grand total of $145 million in budget appropriations line items, of which well over $130 million survived DeSantis’s veto purge.

Gruters, however, argues that the vast majority of those line-item requests were for recurring revenue, and not specific “member projects.” He contends that when looking at the number of requests vetoed, nearly 40 percent of his budget requests were shot down by DeSantis, proving it was he who bore the brunt of DeSantis’s ire. In all the governor killed off 12 individual budget items requested by Gruters.

Fair enough. But Gruters is the only state lawmaker who has openly endorsed Trump in 2024. Meanwhile, DeSantis’s vetoes totaled nearly $511 million, far more than the money Gruters was asking for. So given the total amount of vetoed funds, Gruters’s now-deceased member projects represent only about 3 percent of the total budget, so he might have been among the top targets, but he certainly wasn’t alone in feeling the wrath of the veto pen.

Even if Gruters’ hunch is correct, that DeSantis did target him and his $15 million spread across 12 member projects solely for the petty reason that Gruters remains steadfastly loyal to Trump, it doesn’t really explain much about the other 97 percent of DeSantis’s veto logic. State Senator Travis Hutson, for example, saw more than twice the amount of vetoed member projects – about $36 million in all – despite the fact that he’s already on the record backing DeSantis in the 2024 contest (Gruters points out that DeSantis only vetoed 2 of Hutson’s projects, one of them just happened to be an expensive line item).

“If you make a lot of requests to fund member projects, you’re probably going to get some of them vetoed,” said Hutson. “I’m grateful that the governor approved $250 million towards my district that has helped improve infrastructure, restore beaches, and my constituents.”

A review of some of the other projects vetoed reveals a broad swath of sectors were affected, from infrastructure improvements to educational projects and environmental initiatives. The decision to withhold funding from many of those projects is in line with the Governor’s stated approach to fiscal prudence. His decision to veto specific projects is arguably a response to what he sees as fiscal excess, rather than an act of political retaliation.

Part of the problem with how the vetoes are being portrayed in the media can, in fact, be blamed directly on DeSantis. Most governors including him, traditionally release a veto memo or letter that explains some of the reasoning behind his veto decision. That didn’t happen this week. Instead, DeSantis held a press conference, announced he was signing the budget, then signed it, but didn’t release the approved budget or his list of vetoed items for hours afterward.

But since then, DeSantis still hasn’t released or published any sort of explanation or rationale for why he made the veto choices that he made. He’s under no obligation to do so, either. The power to make those decisions are his by right of his election as governor. But from a political standpoint, and especially as he runs for president, he owes it to himself to use the veto news as an opportunity to demonstrate that there’s a method to his madness.

Instead, through his relative silence on the matter, he has ceded ground in the never-ending political campaign narrative. He left an opening, and Joe Gruters, himself a savvy politician, seized the opportunity on behalf of Trump to portray DeSantis as petty and vindictive. That’s a narrative that is easy to build on given the way the national media has already tried to portray DeSantis in his ongoing battles with Disney, migrant workers, and others.


  1. MH/Duuuval

    “However, an analysis of the data shows that Gruters’ appropriations requests represented a relatively small portion of the budget cuts, ranking ninth among all legislators, and evidence suggests that the vetoes were driven by fiscal prudence rather than political retaliation.”

    Where to start? 9th of 160 looks plenty targeted to me. What “evidence” is there, unless you are privy to DeSantis’ inner thoughts?

  2. Dorine

    I was skeptical of the article until I looked up the endosement list and saw the two mentioned are in fact on the endorsement list for the Governor. I shouldn’t have had to do that, it should have been stated within the content. Overall though, it’s fairly written and reported.

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