Winners & Losers
This week’s biggest Winners & Losers
Who’s up and who’s down in the state budget?
State budget signing day in Florida is like two combined holidays: Christmas for the interests whose funding was spared, and Halloween for the appropriations lobbyists and their clients who got the trick instead of the treat.
Gov. Ron DeSantis was in The Villages Thursday to sign the 2022-23 spending plan that with line-item vetoes now comes down to $109.9 billion.
DeSantis also claimed a new state record by axing out $3.1 billion in proposed expenditures, which he said was “to maintain Florida’s sound fiscal standing in the face of negative economic headwinds due to ill-conceived federal policies.” Indeed, the governor spent much of the press conference bashing President Joe Biden, even referring to him as “Brandon,” a stand-in term for cussing at the Democratic leader.
So when the slaughter of the red pen was over, whose golden calf made the cut and whose ox got gored? Here’s a few.
Syd Kitson -
The former Green Bay Packer, now head of real estate development company Kitson & Partners, is building the massive Babcock Ranch planned community that reaches across parts of Charlotte and Lee counties. As independent journalist Jason Garcia noted, the development will benefit from $30 million left in the budget “to widen State Road 31 and replace a bridge across the Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers.” That route is a “crucial access point” for the nearly 20,000-home community.
Eric Eikenberg -
The budget included $352.6 million for already authorized Everglades restoration, which made the Everglades Foundation CEO jump for joy. Figuratively speaking, that is, in a press release. “This legislative session was an opportunity to continue our momentum on the EAA Reservoir – a fundamental component of restoring the natural flow of water from Lake Okeechobee through the Everglades to the Florida Keys – and resulted in the funding needed to continue to drive this project forward,” he said.
Manny Diaz -
The state’s new education commissioner has a lot of money to start with. The budget includes an across-the-board 5.38 percent pay increase for state employees, including teachers, and per-student spending in public schools will be up $385 to $8,143, the News Service of Florida reported. Moreover, $800 million will go toward boosting the minimum salaries of teachers to $47,500 a year. DeSantis will make sure children “learn in school (and) are not indoctrinated,” he said.
Christian Hardigree -
The next regional chancellor of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg hasn’t even started the job yet and she’s already taking a big “L.” DeSantis slashed $75 million for the campus’ new Environmental & Oceanographic Sciences Research & Teaching Facility. Supporters like state Rep. Ben Diamond said it “would have made St. Petersburg the preeminent hub for marine science research and instruction.” Hardigree’s first day, by the way, is July 1 – the same day as the start of the state’s budget year.
Francisco Gomes Neto -
Neto is CEO of Embraer, the jet company that makes the Phenom 300E aircraft. Lawmakers approved buying two of them for $31 million, but DeSantis chopped out the money. The planes would have been available for travel by Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, Cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, legislative leaders and more. If only Rick Scott, who flew by private jet, hadn’t got rid of the old planes. DeSantis still has the state-owned Cessna Citation Latitude.
Stuart Sternberg -
The principal owner of the Tampa Bay Rays saw $35 million whacked that would have been for a spring training facility in Pasco County. The buzz was that the veto was in response to the Rays’ social media posts against gun violence after the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas. The Rays said they would give $50,000 to the Support Fund of Everytown for Gun Safety, founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
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