Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Largest Environmental Preservation Budget, Vetoes $510.9 Million in Projects

On June 16, 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a $116.5 billion state budget, which includes $7.3 billion for environmental preservation, agricultural and natural resources, and $1.6 billion for Everglades and water-quality projects.[0] This is the state’s largest budget for environmental preservation.[1] Deltona Theresa Basin flood control study, a project worth $600,000, and $500,000 for The Bridge Homeless Shelter in DeLand were among the projects that were vetoed by the governor. The governor’s veto list totaled $510.9 million. This included around $15.3 million in projects for Orange, Osceola, Lake, and Seminole counties. The $117 billion budget was written and passed unanimously by the Florida Legislature.[2]

While some lawmakers who didn’t endorse DeSantis had their projects eliminated by his veto pen, the governor defended his veto list, saying it showed fiscal restraint.[3] The budget makes “historic investments in education, public safety, infrastructure, and the environment,” DeSantis said.[3] He also took the opportunity to bash President Joe Biden’s administration, blaming the record-high inflation on the billions of dollars parceled out by Congress for COVID-19 relief programs.[4] The governor did not mention that Florida received billions of extra federal funding during the past three years, which DeSantis and Republican legislators have been able to steer to some of their top priorities.[4]

DeSantis has been touting his “robust” vetoes as a way to target “overspending” and show he is fiscally responsible.[5] In 2022, legislative leaders stood behind DeSantis and smiled as he slashed $3 billion from the budget as he bragged about cutting the “pork” they left in the $110 billion budget, including their own pet projects.[6] However, this year’s veto list has drawn criticism from some lawmakers. State Rep. Rita Harris, D-Orlando, said, “Unfortunately, many good projects that would have relieved Florida’s taxpayers with everything from flood water mitigation to neighborhood resource centers were vetoed because the governor is disconnected from the needs of average Floridians.”[7]

Republican State Sen. Joe Gruters, who represents the district that saw many of its projects eliminated by the governor’s veto pen, slammed DeSantis, saying, “Simply because I support his political opponent, the governor chose to punish ordinary Floridians who want better water quality, less traffic congestion, and increased resources for disabled children to find gainful employment.[8] Such cruel behaviors are what’s shaping his reputation locally and nationally.[8]

Despite the criticism, Governor DeSantis remains a Republican presidential contender for 2024, and the budget has already become fodder for his campaign. The governor has been championing Florida’s financial strength and his leadership, saying, “The state is in great shape, the state is going in a great direction.[9] You’re not going to see us have the type of problems that these other states have with fiscal insolvency, driving people away.[4]

0. “Governor approves $24 million for USFSP science facility” St Pete Catalyst, 16 Jun. 2023, https://stpetecatalyst.com/governor-approves-24-million-for-usfsp-science-facility/

1. “Gov. DeSantis announces major investment in environment, water quality” TCPalm, 15 Jun. 2023, https://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/st-lucie-county/2023/06/15/gov-desantis-announces-major-investment-in-environment-water-quality/70325399007/

2. “DeSantis axes $510 million from record state budget” FOX 13 Tampa, 16 Jun. 2023, https://www.fox13news.com/news/desantis-axes-510-million-from-record-state-budget

3. “DeSantis vetoes $18 million for South Florida” South Florida Sun Sentinel, 16 Jun. 2023, https://www.sun-sentinel.com/2023/06/16/desantis-axes-money-for-south-florida-public-safety-flood-control-and-parks/

4. “DeSantis’ budget vetoes include projects from GOP lawmakers who didn’t endorse him” POLITICO, 16 Jun. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/06/15/desantis-torched-fellow-republicans-over-vetoes-00102317

5. “Gov. Ron DeSantis signs record-breaking budget for Florida” WPTV News Channel 5 West Palm, 15 Jun. 2023, https://www.wptv.com/news/state/gov-ron-desantis-signs-record-breaking-117-billion-budget-for-florida

6. “DeSantis signs $116.5 billion budget, slashes $511 million – Orlando Sentinel” Orlando Sentinel, 15 Jun. 2023, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/2023/06/15/desantis-signs-116-5-billion-budget-slashes-510-million/

7. “DeSantis axes funding for Central Florida flood prevention, Black history fest” Orlando Sentinel, 15 Jun. 2023, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/2023/06/15/desantis-axes-funding-for-central-florida-flood-prevention-black-history-fest

8. “Ron DeSantis Accused of Taking Revenge Against Pro-Trump Florida Republican” Newsweek, 16 Jun. 2023, https://www.newsweek.com/ron-desantis-accused-taking-revenge-against-pro-trump-florida-republican-1807339

9. “DeSantis signs Florida budget, vetoes projects with eye on presidency” Tallahassee Democrat, 15 Jun. 2023, https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/politics/2023/06/15/desantis-signs-florida-budget-details-hazy-amid-presidential-politics/70295572007

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