Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a $78.2 billion state budget Tuesday, vetoing a record $461 million in pork-barrel projects that legislators requested in their special session last week.
The Republican governor praised legislators for including tax reductions of $427 million in the budget. He had sought nearly $700 million in cuts, but a standoff over healthcare funding caused the state to shift some general revenues to make up for reduced federal funding in hospital programs.
Scott's $461 million vetoes were mostly hometown building projects, dubbed "turkeys," injected by influential Republican legislators at the last minute to smooth ruffled feathers.
They included $15 million sought by Senate President Andy Gardiner, an Orlando Republican, for a downtown campus for his hometown university. Scott also axed $27 million for a water storage project.
His veto messages said the governor eliminated programs that he thought did not go through the normal committee process or lacked statewide impact.
Scott also vetoed $300,000 for a Holocaust memorial in Miami Beach and $50,000 for a Holocaust education center. Also rejected was a $150,000 item for restoration of the "Ma Barker house" in Marion County, scene of the FBI shootout in 1935 with the Barker-Karpis Gang that left the Depression-era gangster dead.
A bitter disagreement between the House and Senate whether to expand the federal Medicaid healthcare program for the poor caused the regular session to end without a budget April 28. The legislature, which is Republican-controlled, held a 19-day special session that ended Friday with passage of the budget.
The bulk of Scott's tax-cut package was a $226 million reduction in the communications services tax on cellular phones and cable television bills. It also includes a 10-day "sales tax holiday" for back-to-school shopping and an exemption for college textbooks.
"Florida recently surpassed New York to become the third-largest state," Scott said, "and this budget continues making Florida the most efficient government in the nation by driving down the cost of bureaucracy and eliminating burdensome red tape."
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