With little advanced notice, Gov. Rick Scott quietly signed the budget passed by the Republican-controlled legislature during special session and used his line-item veto power to slash $461 million in funding from the original $78.6 billion state budget. Now several notable Republicans are criticizing Scott's thrifty ways, noting that he's "declared war on the legislature," shattering dreams, and putting politics over good governance.
“While Governor Scott will undoubtedly spend the next several weeks traveling the state touting his record number of vetoes as win for Florida’s families, there are many families across Florida who have seen their dreams shattered by his decisions today,” said Senate President Andy Gardiner, a Republican from Orlando, according to the Palm Beach Post.
“While I respect the governor’s authority to veto various lines within our budget, his clear disregard for the public policy merits of many legislative initiatives underscores that today’s veto list is more about politics than sound fiscal policy,” Gardiner said. “It is unfortunate that the messaging strategy needed to achieve the governor’s political agenda comes at the expense of the most vulnerable people in our state.”
Gardiner was key in leading Senate Republicans to champion the expansion of Medicaid and other Obamacare-driven compromises to help insure Florida's poor, ideas that were opposed by Scott and the House.
Scott ended up bringing out the veto pen to cut funding to several projects in Gardiner's home-area including $15 million for a University of Central Florida campus in downtown Orlando and $8 million for an Orlando performing arts center. Gardiner was also angered by Scott's veto of $8 million for an education program for people with disabilities.
Scott "Has Declared War on the Legislature"
13 sessions in the Florida Senate. I've never seen anything like this.— Senator Jack Latvala (@JackLatvala) June 23, 2015
Senator Jack Latvala, a Republican who represents suburban areas near St. Petersburg, also had strong words for Scott, and noted that Scott vetoed funding for projects he had signed off on in the past. Latvala also implied Scott was leaning too hard on the advice of his Chief of Staff Melissa Sellers, who formerly worked for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
"The governor is not being well served by these kids from Louisiana,'' Latvala said according to the Herald/Times political bureau. "I don't recall a governor's office as unresponsive as that one is. They’ve got him totally isolated. You can’t have a meeting without Melissa sitting there. She totally controls the agenda but what are her credentials to do that? She won a campaign."
He claims the governor "has declared war on the Legislature," and even compared him to Charlie Crist.
"Sometimes you have to be in a public service mode,'' Latvala huffed. "Sometimes you have to be in a governing mode. That's what Charlie Crist's problem was. The campaign is over and you have to start governing."
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"Profound Disappointment" in Cutting Pay Raises to Forest Firefighters
One of Scott's most controversial vetoes was eliminating pay raises for Forest Service firefighters. The $1.6 million item would have given each firefighter a raise of $2,000 a year. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, widely expected to run for governor himself one day, was none too happy.
“I am profoundly disappointed,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said according to the Tampa Bay Times. “Our forest firefighters put their lives on the line. They are demonstratively underpaid relative to peers.”
Putnam pointed out that just today alone the state is dealing with 90 separate forest fires, and that other government employees who aren't putting their lives on the line are getting raises.
"The helpful people who take your driver's license photo were allowed to receive a pay raise," he added. "And our forest firefighters who put their lives on the line were not."