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National Politics

Scott sifting through $69.7 billion budget for additional cuts

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 03:40 AM
TALLAHASSEE -

Gov. Rick Scott said he intends to hack away at the state budget that lawmakers passed earlier this month, but defended his own decision to spend state dollars to tack his name onto highway welcome signs.

The Legislature's $69.7 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year "meets my three more core principles, by reducing the cost and size of government while also providing tax cuts for businesses and property owners," Scott told reporters earlier today. But "there will be additional savings ...

"In these tough economic times, we must ensure that every hard-earned tax dollar is used wisely in a way that will get Florida back to work," he said.

Scott declined to estimate how much spending he may veto, saying that he is combing through the austere budget proposal, line by line.

Scott defended his own decision to spend $8,800 on tacking his name onto 35 welcome signs adorning roadways around the state -- something that other recent Florida governors have declined to do, even in economic boom times.

"I think they look nice," the governor quipped, adding that the signs support his efforts to market Florida to outside businesses and individuals. "Part of my job is to promote the state, and that's what I'm doing every day."

Other highlights from the governor's Q&A:

•On $545 cut from per-student spending on K-12 education, and teacher layoffs announced in South Florida: "I think like every family in the state, every business in the state, probably -- everybody's had to rethink how they do their job. … Our schools are doing the same thing."

Scott blamed the cutbacks on federal stimulus money drying up and then quickly shifted the focus to his and the Legislature's decision to phase out teacher tenure in favor of merit pay, increase virtual education and expand charter schools. "All those things are doing the exact right thing for education, and that's putting our students first."

•On putting his financial assets -- but not his wife's -- into a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest: "She's not the governor. So she's not subject to it."

•On elections reform legislation awaiting his signature: Scott did not indicate whether he would sign the bill, which would reduce the number of early voting days, restrict address changes made at the polls on Election Day and make it harder for third-party registration groups to add new voters to the state's rolls.

"The things I care about with regard to elections, I want to make sure people have the opportunity to vote; I want people to get out to vote, and I don't want fraud. So that will sort-of be the filter I use in going through the bill."

cwhittenburg@tampatrib.com

(850) 222-8382

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