- Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed a record-high state budget of $116.5 billion, but withheld details of the budget and line-item vetoes until hours later.
- The relatively low veto total surprised insiders, contrary to expectations that DeSantis would use the opportunity to highlight his fiscal conservatism.
- But even so, the governor trimmed over $500 million from the budget, with notable vetoes including cuts to conservation, education funding, public broadcasting, and food drive support.
In one of the more unusual budget signing ceremonies in decades, Governor Ron DeSantis signed off Thursday morning on a record-high state budget of roughly $116.5 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1, but nobody knew those specifics until hours after the signing ceremony. That’s because neither the budget’s total dollar amount nor a list of the governor’s line-item veto decisions were provided until Thursday afternoon, when DeSantis’s office finally unveiled a detailed list of his line-item vetoes totaling $510.9 million.
In addition to the initial lack of information, the relatively low veto total also surprised many Tallahassee insiders, who had predicted that DeSantis might use the budget signing ceremony as an opportunity to showcase his fiscal conservatism. DeSantis, known for his extensive use of line-item vetoes, had already surpassed his fiscally conservative predecessors such as Jeb Bush and Rick Scott in monetary cuts. Since his tenure, DeSantis has vetoed more than $5.6 billion in budget line items. With his reputation as a budget hawk already secure, the anticipated “budget bloodbath” of billions more in line-item vetoes never materialized.
Even so, DeSantis’s relatively modest budget trimming was felt at a signing event at the Pelican Yacht Club in Fort Pierce. At the event, the governor praised Florida’s financial health and fiscal approach, contrasting it with that of President Joe Biden and other Democratic-led states. The largest item vetoed was a $100 million allocation for Conservation And Rural Land Protection easements. Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, a proponent of the program, criticized the cut, arguing that it would negatively impact Florida’s $180 billion agriculture industry.
Additional notable vetoes included a $30.8 million proposal to acquire the Kirkland Ranch in Pasco County and a handful of additional line-items totaling $150 million in proposed education-related funding. Among the education cuts, DeSantis eliminated a $2.1 million proposal for a pay raise for teachers in juvenile-justice education programs and halted several significant construction projects at state colleges and universities. These include a $14.5 million renovation to Florida Gulf Coast University’s Reed Hall, an $11 million construction of a new Academic and Research Collaboration Center at the University of Florida, and a $20 million proposal to construct an Academic STEM Nursing Facility at the University of South Florida’s Sarasota-Manatee Campus.
Also vetoed was $6.4 million for upgrades at public broadcasting stations statewide, and $400,000 intended for the annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive conducted by U.S. Postal carriers.
The final budget DeSantis signed into law includes $850 million for the Florida Wildlife Corridor and $100 million in recurring funding for the Florida Forever land protection program.