Mitch Perry Report 6.3.14: South St. Pete a loser in Gov. Scott's budget

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People complain often that government shouldn't pick "winners and losers," but in fact the government does that all the time. That was certainly apparent with the relatively few programs that Rick Scott didn't choose to support in signing the biggest state budget in Florida history yesterday (at $77 billion).

The governor vetoed 110 projects totaling $69 million, prompting one leading Tea Party official to claim that Charlie Crist was a bigger fiscal conservative than Scott. 

But the projects he did cut are upsetting some folks today, such as the 20/20 plan for South St Pete. Last fall CL wrote an in-depth piece on that ambitious plan that aims to reduce the crime and poverty rate substantially over the next six years in the Southside.  Called the 20/20 plan, one of its main goals is to increase employment by 5,000, through job training and closing the skills gap. It also aims to improve enrollment and graduation rates in the Pinellas school district by increasing” the number of students who will graduate in fields like manufacturing, construction, IT and health care."

Let's be clear, however. The loss of that $1.6 million — for which a bipartisan group of Pinellas legislators had won approval before Scott's veto — shouldn't ultimately affect the project, slated to launch later this year. But it hurts.

“It floors me that a governor supposedly so focused on jobs would deny one of Florida’s most innovative approaches to increasing employment," 2020 leader Gypsy Gallardo told CL Monday night. "Seventy organizations – from corporate to the grassroots – sent their signed letters of support for this allocation; the governor was not compelled by either their passion or the bottom-line purpose of the 2020 Plan.”

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman also is unhappy. "I am incredibly disappointed that Governor Rick Scott vetoed the Agenda 2020 plan funding," he said in a statement on Monday. "He clearly failed to see the value of this community initiative, its impact on reducing poverty, and its rich potential to get Floridians back to work – the hallmark of the governor’s platform. Unfortunately, election-year politics appears to have trumped the needs of the people today."

Kriseman did say that otherwise St. Pete did okay in the process, because let's face it, there were far more winners in this year's budget than losers. So congrats to Bill Edwards for getting half-a-million to spruce up the kitchen in the Mahaffey!

In related news… College tuition will not be going up in the next year, and you're damned right Scott will be campaigning on that issue. In fact he already is, with a new ad that compares that fact to when Charlie Crist was governor. Left unsaid was how the GOP-led Legislature supported Crist in raising tuition hikes in 2008 and 2009....

Much to the chagrin of foes of Greenlight Pinellas, an Inspector General with the state's Dept. of Transportation said there were no shenanigans performed by PSTA in their education campaign on the transit tax in a soon-to-be released report.

That proposed high-speed ferry service that would ultimately run from Tampa to St. Petersburg got a lot more real yesterday with nearly $5 million awarded to HART to run the project, though organizers will still need a lot more cash to make the private/public program come to fruition.

And speaking of HART, the current chairman of the Hillsborough transit agency, Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez, says there are plenty of questions that need to be answered before he's willing to have it taken over by the Hillsborough County Commission and the mayors of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City.

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