No rhyme/reason for these vetoes
It’s the first Monday in June, perfect time for a civics lesson.
One of the more interesting government stories in Florida is the annual rite of the governor signing the state budget and at the same time exercising his line-item veto authority to eliminate specific projects.
That’s the thing we’re always interested in: What was vetoed?
This line-item veto power is a strange animal because all the work to get money into the budget is in the front end. I have seen Citrus County folks briskly walking the Capitol hallways during Session, meeting with influential legislators to keep their significant project in the budget.
That’s how money has come for sewer projects, Kings Bay restoration, mental-health programs — you get the picture.
So to have all that effort go down the drain because of the governor’s line-item veto, it’s really disappointing to people who live the cause.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the budget Thursday and vetoed $3.1 billion in projects, including around $40 million in Citrus. That’s a large number, but half of it — $20.7 million — was for the Turkey Oak Drive bypass improvements.
It wasn’t a horrible day for Citrus. The governor kept money in the budget to finish the Riverwalk in Crystal River, extend the Crystal River Airport runway and start a restoration project in the Tsala Apopka Chain of Lakes.
But some of the vetoes are just head-scratchers:
— The Homosassa River restoration project is following in the wildly successful footsteps of Save Crystal River with the Kings Bay restoration.
DeSantis must have agreed because he kept $1.5 million in the budget for Homosassa in 2020. Last year the group received a grant to keep the project moving.
This year, the budget included $10 million each for Kings Bay and Homosassa. Kings Bay made it. Homosassa — veto.
I mean…what’s the logic there?
— One of the coolest ideas ever and one that addresses a real and very serious need is the Canes Construction Academy at Citrus High School. The budget had $162,200 — a nothingburger in this state — and DeSantis vetoed it.
— I’ve written before how Beverly Hills can’t catch a break and it didn’t catch one here either. DeSantis axed $850,000 that the county, led by Commissioner Ruthie Davis Schlabach, requested to develop the long-ignored Lake Beverly area into some type of community town center.
You may be asking, “Why did the governor do all that? Does he hate us?”
OK, now let’s not go crazy. Though, truthfully, I can’t answer that question. Let’s just say we had a better batting average before Citrus County wasn’t on the governor’s radar.
Let me explain.
This is DeSantis’ fourth state budget as governor. In two of the first three, Citrus County had NO VETOES. Our asks were much lower than this year’s, but the governor let money slide for mental health care, sewer projects, the King’s Bay restoration and the Homosassa River restoration, among other things.
This year, confidence was high of a Citrus County windfall, with Senate President Wilton Simspon’s last year in office as he headed to a campaign as agriculture commissioner, and Rep. Ralph Massullo on his way out of the House for a Senate race.
Then, though no fault of our own, things went a little haywire when DeSantis jumped into Citrus County politics. After all that, we wondered: Would DeSantis reward Citrus for blocking us from decent Senate and House races by giving us our budget asks? Or…not?
Well, we know the answer to that.
Those whose projects escaped the veto pen are no doubt happy with the way things turned out. Others, not so much.
For those folks, there’s always next year.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.