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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Giving Green Light To Budget Items

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) - Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that he will approve $100 million in the upcoming year's state budget for cancer research, $37 million more than in the current year.

A day earlier, he declared $125 million for nursing programs safe from his veto pen.

DeSantis has not formally received the proposed $112.1 billion budget from the Legislature for the fiscal year that will start July 1.

But in election-year appearances across the state, he has dribbled out news on about $2 billion worth of projects and programs that he will approve.

That makes up less than 2 percent of the spending plan, but the announcements have touched on what likely will be popular spending.

They have included approving $800 million to boost teacher pay; $400 million for broadband expansion; $125 million to cover bonuses for first responders; $80 million for a new "state-of-the-art" trauma center at UF Health Jacksonville; $30 million for rural infrastructure; $30 million to help manatees; and $14 million for red-tide research.

In his announcement Monday about approving $125 million for nursing programs, DeSantis said more funding is loosely tied to nursing in the overall budget (HB 5001).

"I have not decided that I would veto any of those as of now," DeSantis said during an appearance at Seminole State College of Florida in Sanford. "And so, we'll see how we're going. We haven't completed the full review. But regardless of how it comes out, I think almost assuredly you will see a really significant amount of money go to both state colleges, actually some school districts, as well as universities, to be able to expand some of the facilities that they have."

And as he often says in lieu of details, "Stay tuned on that."

Even if he uses his line-item veto power to trim $1 billion from the budget, as he did in 2020, or $1.5 billion, as he did in 2021, most of the spending plan passed by lawmakers in March will be approved.

Also, lawmakers largely matched DeSantis' budget requests on numerous issues, such as tourism marketing, the state transportation plan, helping natural springs, and Everglades programs.

Fueled by federal stimulus money and an influx of higher-than-expected state tax revenues, legislators bulked up the record spending plan. But questions remain about how DeSantis will view projects that lawmakers inserted into the budget for their districts and communities.

The Tallahassee-based Florida TaxWatch has proposed $281 million in cuts to 166 budget items that it dubbed "turkeys."

The annual turkey list is based on whether spending items had public oversight before landing in the budget, rather than the economic merits of projects or whether they are needed by citizens.

TaxWatch also requested that DeSantis give extra scrutiny to all 1,221 local projects.

But some of those are already safe, based on DeSantis' recent announcements.

During several appearances across the state, DeSantis highlighted money for local projects and then asked his audiences whether he should veto or approve the funding.

Among the local spending items earning DeSantis' support have been $22 million for road resurfacing projects and law-enforcement salary increases in Gilchrist County; $10 million for flood mitigation and work on two fire stations in Dixie County; $6.2 million for park maintenance, law-enforcement salaries, school security and sheriff's office communications in Lafayette County; and $880,000 for the Crossroads Fire Station in Hamilton County.

DeSantis also said he'll sign off on $25 million for renovations to the Freedom Tower in Miami.

The nearly 100-year-old tower, now tied to Miami Dade College, became a South Florida rallying point as it was used to process Cuban refugees in the 1960s.

"We said what we were gonna do. We fought to get that money. And I want to thank the Legislature for delivering for the folks right here in South Florida," DeSantis said May 9 while at the tower.

DeSantis requested the Freedom Tower funding in November.

Also, veto-proof is money tied to bills DeSantis has recently signed into law.

As an example, $34.4 million will go to help recruit law-enforcement officers from other states and to retain existing officers (HB 3).

Also, a bill (HB 7065) signed by DeSantis will provide $70 million for programs intended to help fathers find employment, manage child-support obligations, and transition from incarceration.

(©2022 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida's Jim Turner contributed to this report.)

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