He has until April 21 to sign it and use his line-item veto power to eliminate member and hometown projects or other spending items that the governor finds objectionable.
There's a good chance that this year's budget veto list could be extensive.
Scott of course has made strides to change his dealings with lawmakers from those first few awkward weeks of last year. He even joked this week that he knows a lot more people now which means he's getting a lot more phone calls about items in the budget.
But the question remains just how conciliatory Scott plans to be when it comes to government spending and the budget especially when part of the appeal he made to conservative Republicans and Tea party members was his belief that government spending needs to come down in order to help grow the economy overall.
Consider this: While legislators went along with Scott's desire to bolster education spending (after cutting it deeply the year before) lawmakers did not cut spending as much as the governor had advocated in his own budget recommendations.
And then there's the budget letter he almost sent.
Scott's budget office midway through the session drew up a "draft notice letter" that the governor wanted. Emails show that there was a brief discussion of sending it to the Legislature although ultimately it was never sent out.
And what did the letter say?
"Almost a year later, and after listening to Floridians from many walks of life, I am more convinced than ever that government, if left unchecked, has a tendency to stray from its core mission. Reducing the size and cost of government are imperative for Florida’s future. I mentioned in my State-of-the-State address to the 2012 Legislature that as Governor, I view my job to have 3 key requirements:
- Ensuring that Floridians are able to gain employment
- Securing the right of every Floridian to a quality education
- Keeping the cost of living low
These principles are reflected in my Fiscal Year 2012-13 budget recommendations. Priorities have to be determined and tough decisions have to be made to create a government that is lean and efficient, and most importantly, creates an environment where businesses can flourish and grow jobs.
To maintain my promise to the citizens of Florida to keep government spending in check, I will continue to watch carefully as each house prepares their respective budgets. I also pledge that I will again closely scrutinize each line item in the anticipated budget for Fiscal Year 2012-13. As I had noted in the May 26, 2011 veto letter: “This year, throughout my line-by-line examination of the state budget, I found many expenditures of taxpayer dollars with laudable and important goals but limited accountability. Those that won my approval this year will not receive approval next year unless my office receives clearly defined measurements submitted with their Fiscal Year 2012-2013 Legislative Budget Requests.”
I will watch closely for projects and programs that:
- are not essential to the operation of state government;
- lack sufficient accountability;
- hamper the continued growth of private sector jobs;
- increase our debt burden; or
- represent federal funding that assumes continued state commitment
With that, I challenge all the members of the Legislature to assess past actions, consider the present critical needs and invest in our future as they finalize their budgets.
Flash forward to his comments to the press on Tuesday when asked about the budget: "My responsibility is to the taxpayers of the state. If it's a good return on taxpayer money, I'm interested in it."
Last year Scott vetoed more than $600 million although that figure was inflated because the amount of one of the line items was based on land sales that were unlikely to materialize.
But there is the possibility that if Scott sticks to the principles outlined in his "draft notice letter" there could be a sizable amount of vetoes.
It's not just the millions tucked here and there for member projects.
It could be the money lawmakers set aside for school construction projects or private universities. How about the nearly $4 million for public television? Scott vetoed similar funding last year. This year lawmakers have tried to spare a possible veto by calling on the Department of Education to study whether or not public television programs help with learning gains.
The list goes on and on of items that could be targeted, whether its funding for transportation projects, new technology purchase etc. etc.
Scott will not likely top the amount of vetoes he made last year, but depending on how closely he follows his "draft notice letter" the amount could easily be a nine-digit figure.