Lawmakers Rally Resistance to Vetoes



Lawmakers representing Sarasota and Manatee counties don’t expect Gov. Rick Scott to veto the entire state budget, as he has publicly considered. But they say he could likely use his line-item veto power to kill local spending projects as punishment to representatives who voted for major cuts to Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida. At an event held by Gulf Coast business organizations on Tuesday, lawmakers appealed to community leaders to call Tallahassee and stress the importance of many items in the budget approved by the Legislature this year.

“A lot of good things are coming to Sarasota and Manatee counties,” says Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton. “It’s important for everyone in the room, if you are inclined and do have connections in the executive office of the governor, to say this is important to our community.” Noting such locally important funding projects as funding for the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and infrastructure improvements like those planned on River Road, Boyd and other lawmakers encouraged citizens to lobby the governor directly if they could.

The session exposed acrimony between the House and Scott this year when Scott called for $100 million to be budgeted for Visit Florida and for Enterprise Florida to have $85 million in business incentives allocated. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, citing mismanagement in both agencies, called for all funding to be stripped. The final budget to come out of the Legislature included $25 million for Visit Florida and no incentives for Enterprise Florida.

The business meeting on Tuesday, hosted at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota by the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County, the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange and the Manatee Sarasota Building Industry Association, marked one of the first chances for lawyers to talk to local leaders since the close of session. State Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, says that budget pressure came entirely from the House, but the final budget ultimately won the approval of both chambers of the Legislature by wide margins. Should Scott veto the whole budget and call lawmakers back to a special session, the Legislature would likely override the veto and the governor might then forfeit the chance for line-item vetoes.

State Rep. Wengay “Newt” Newton, D-St. Petersburg, sided with the governor on funding state agencies, and says Scott has made his pleasure known to lawmakers who backed the spending and his displeasure known about those who did not. “I do think he will veto to punish those who went after Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida,” Newton says. “I know the benefits of having those incentives to help attract companies to certain areas.” But Newton said the organizations likely would not be in political crosshairs if more effort had been made distributing incentives and tourist marketing funds more evenly around Florida. 

State Rep. Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice, says many of the funding measures that could be vetoed, from swimming programs at the YMCA to Easter Seals' contributions to road safety measures, could save lives.  

State Rep. Alex Miller, R-Sarasota, expects lawmakers to be called back to Tallahassee quickly to handle unfinished business implementing a medical marijuana amendment. But she says House leadership is unlikely to change position on the level of funding for Enterprise Florida or Visit Florida. She noted the Visit Florida budget was the same level as it was in 2009, and that only recently had funds gone up. She’s not worried about losing state funding to boost tourism here. "People need to be educated on going to Pasco County," Miller says. "They don't need to be educated on Siesta Key."

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