Florida Governor Rick Scott broke out the veto pen Friday and cut funding for more than a dozen Northwest Florida projects and programs from the state’s budget.
Among the biggest casualties was $4.1 million in planned funding for archaeology, nursing, physical therapy, and robotics programs at the University of West Florida.
“We realize it has not been an easy year and we thank our legislative partners for all of their efforts,” said UWF president Dr. Martha Saunders. “Three out of the four programs vetoed are active programs, so we are concerned about the impact on the students currently enrolled. We are committed to doing everything we can to minimize any disruption.”
Scott vetoed around $410 million in funding for communities across the state in order to free up money for the state’s tourism and economic development agencies, the governor’s top budget priorities. Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who had targeted Scott’s priorities for deep cuts, agreed to fund them in exchange for increased funding for Florida’s K-12 public schools.
Lawmakers will return to Tallahassee next week for a special session to implement the budget changes.
Other Scott vetoes for Escambia County projects included $250,000 for the Beulah Interstate 10 interchange and $100,000 for a planned Bernardo de Gálvez monument in downtown Pensacola.
In Santa Rosa County, Scott vetoed $1 million for the City of Milton’s Riverwalk, $1 million for an access road at Santa Rosa County’s I-10 Industrial Park, and $100,000 for The Andrews Regenerative Medicine Center in Gulf Breeze.
In Okaloosa, vetoes included $1.75 million to widen P.J. Adams Parkway in Crestview, $500,000 for construction of a public boat landing in Niceville, $300,000 for the restoration of the historic Gulfview Hotel in Fort Walton Beach, $100,000 for a mental health and substance abuse diversion program, and $30,000 for the Okaloosa County Historical Museum Cooperative.
It wasn’t a complete loss for Northwest Florida, however. UWF did receive $4.4 million for Phase III of its Laboratory Sciences Annex and just over $5 million for programs including the Office of Economic Development & Engagement, Physician Assistance Program, School of Mechanical Engineering, Advanced Manufacturing Design Studio, and Veteran & Military Student Support.
The Bluffs, a planned “industrial campus” along the Escambia River, also received $3.1 million in the final budget, and a planned commerce park at Pensacola International Airport received $1.396 million. Half-million dollar allocations will go toward both the Muscogee Road freight corridor and a water and sewer system on Innerarity Island. The Lakeview Center in Pensacola and the Bridgeway Center in Fort Walton Beach each received $750,000, while the National Flight Academy received $421,495 and Re-Entry Alliance Pensacola received $200,000.
Other projects which escaped vetos include $562,500 for a wastewater treatment plant in East Milton and $5.7 million to upgrade and renovate two buildings at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville.