Governor Rick Scott tells students it's not easy making a state budget

04/19/12 Janelle Irwin
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Florida Governor Rick Scott ceremonially signed the state’s $70 billion \budget at a school in Tampa Wednesday afternoon. Scott touts it as the education budget because it adds a billion dollars to public school funding.

After touring the Rampello K-8 Downtown Partnership School geared toward parents who work downtown, Governor Scott was greeted in the media center by about 50 middle school students clad in red. He told them he was there to sign the state’s budget – one that he said everyone should be happy with.

“It’s never easy to figure out how you should spend your money. So, if you had to decide how you’re going to allocate all those dollars, it wouldn’t be easy. Right? Well, what happens is I propose a budget and these members of the legislature; they get to actually do a budget. They get to decide what the budget is. And the only choice I have, I can either say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If I say no, they go back and do another budget. If I say yes, I get to look at every line and decide if I like those line items or don’t like those line items.”

Scott went on to explain why he’s sometimes not the most popular kid on the block.

“Now, if I agree with those, those that worked get in there are really happy with me. If I don’t put it in there, those that got it in there are not so happy. So, I got to do that yesterday. So, I have a lot more friends and a lot more people that are a little bit more disappointed in me as of today because I had a choice of certain line items.”

Despite the surge of funding for public education, it only helps to replace the $1.3 billion in cuts that Scott approved last year. The Governor blamed the Federal government on that loss.

“As you know, the Federal government put money through the state budget into education and then they took it away. So, last year, what the state took – because remember, it’s your money in the state. It’s your sales tax dollars primarily and property tax dollars that comes through the state that pays for education here. The state kept it basically flat. What happened in last year is the Federal government didn’t put their money in. You know, they put money in the stimulus and then took it away. This year, we took your state money – because the stimulus money is gone – took your state money and we increased it by a billion dollars. The way we did that was, all of us talked to the agencies in the state and we tightened the belts of the others.”

This week Scott vetoed $140 million from the budget the Legislature passed. Cuts were made to things like legal assistance for people with low incomes, autism aid programs and grants to the Florida Aquarium and a museum in South Florida.

“What’s the benefit for the family making $40,000 a year that’s struggling that we’re taking their sales tax dollars, their property tax dollars – is this a good use of their money? Or is it something that not-for-profits should be doing?”

Among the students who got to listen to the Governor talk about how he decides who gets state money and who doesn’t was fifth grader George Burdick. He and his classmates were still beaming from their photo op with Governor Scott – they said it was the first time they’ve met someone more important than the Mayor. Most of the students said they wanted some of the restored funding to buy them better cafeteria food. But Burdick had some less tasty, but more practical ideas.

“I would like for the P.E. equipment to have more equipment because we’re running out. Not just that. Also, because they need a bigger school to accept more kids because they have certain limitations of space. So, I think there should be a bigger school so then the bar of the limitation would be raised.”

Tampa City Council is considering a “Clean Zone” around the Republican National Convention in August. As it’s drawn now, that zone includes the Rampello School. The Hillsborough County School Board is looking into closing the school during the week of the convention. Superintendant Mary Ellen Elia said that matter will be up for a vote at the next meeting.

“We will start this school one week earlier and then we will not have school here in that time during the RNC. However, we are providing programming at one of our other schools for any child and family who needs it. So, we’re taking care of the full gamut, but for security I think it’s all very important for us to make the decision to not have our students, our teachers and our administrators in this building and this is probably going to be very close to where the line of demarcation is.”

Governor Scott nodded as she explained those plans.

“This convention is going to be great for Tampa. It’s great for the state of Florida and it’ll be a great learning experience for everybody in Tampa to see how the system works.”

Scott also showed students a series of posters illustrating how a bill becomes a law. He asked students for examples of laws they would like. The most popular answer: free candy. The 2012 budget signed by Scott includes vetoes to a storm water improvement project on Hillsborough Avenue and 30th Street and $400,000 for more crisis stabilization beds at the 13th Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County.

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