Gov. Rick Scott didn’t waste any time signing the $88.7 billion budget approved by the Legislature on Sunday. He vetoed For Scott, who will leave office at the beginning of next year due to term limits, it is his last state budget.
“This session we kept fighting for tax cuts and, working with the Legislature, we’re cutting taxes by nearly $550 million–bringing our tax cut savings for Florida families since 2011 to more than $10 billion,” Scott said in his letter to the secretary of state conveying his action on the budget.
In signing the budget, Scott announced he was vetoing just over $64 million in spending, mostly for local projects. A relatively low amount for vetoed projects in a Florida budget.
Scott’s decision to sign the budget comes as educators criticize the spending plan for not providing enough funding for public schools.
In his budget letter, Scott says for the sixth straight year “we have secured record funding for K-12 and state universities to ensure every student has the opportunity to receive a world-class education in Florida.”
The Florida Association of District School Superintendents sent a letter to Scott on Wednesday asking him to veto the education portion of the budget and bring legislators back to the Capitol for a special session to approve more money for the state’s K-12 system.
The budget includes $21.1 billion for public schools with per-student spending totalling $7,408. That’s an increase of $101, but much of that increase is due to the school safety money.
The budget includes $400 million for improving security and mental health services at schools across the state. The money was in response to the school shootings that occurred in Parkland more than four weeks ago that killed 17 students and teachers.
The superintendents say when you factor out the school safety spending, that translates into an increase of funding for public schools at 47 cents per student.
The budget signed into law also contains two sales tax holidays–a three-day back-to-school sales tax holiday and a weeklong sale tax holiday on hurricane preparedness supplies. Together, they represent a savings for Floridians of $38.5 million.
The spending plan also provides some much needed relief to Florida’s agriculture industry which sustained nearly $2.5 billion in damages as the result of Hurricane Irma last September. It includes $11.6 million on sales tax exemptions on building supplies for growers who had to repair their businesses.
It also sets aside $1.7 billion to provide assistance to state and local governments for hurricane preparedness and recovery as the result of both Irma and Hurricane Maria.
Scott says the budget secures the state’s long-term economic growth by including $85 million for the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund. The fund is designed to help Florida aggressively fight to be the best destination for businesses to succeed by focusing on infrastructure improvements and workforce training. It also includes $76 million for Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency. The governor had requested $100 for the agency.
Also included in the budget is $65 million to fight the state’s opioid epidemic, $4 billion to protect the state’s environment, and a record $10.1 billion in transportation infrastructure to keep up with Florida’s continued growth.
“In conclusion, as I have done every year since taking office, and in recognition of my commitment to the citizens of Florida, I am voluntarily reducing my salary to one cent per month for Fiscal Year 2018-2019,” Scott said in concluding his budget letter.