Sunday, May 27, 2007

Gov. Charlie Crist chops millions

The honorable Charlie Crist is hell of a governor. Let us pray that he stays on this path. Crist budgetary decisions simply make sense. His comments also show a sincere understanding for the economic concerns of Floridians. Students should especially applaud his veto of tuition increases. Kudos to Governor Charlie Crist!

"Crist chops millions, halts hike in tuition; Gov. Charlie Crist signed a $71.5 billion budget into law after slashing a record $459 million in spending. FLORIDA BUDGET

Source: The Miami Herald 05/25/2007

If the hundreds of millions in pet projects state lawmakers tucked into the budget were a test of how far they could push the new governor, the response was sharp Thursday: Not far.
Gov. Charlie Crist, striking back at legislators who refused to pay for many of his top priorities, axed a record $459 million from the state budget, which takes effect July 1.

Most significantly, he rejected a 5 percent tuition increase at state universities and community colleges, provoking the state's top education official to threaten a challenge.
''Honoring the fact that the people across the state are pinching their pennies, so are we,'' Crist said, noting what he called the ''crushing'' effects of property insurance, property taxes and gas prices on citizens and the economy. ``We're asking local governments to tighten their belts, too. We are tightening ours. We can do no less.''

The vetoes caught some lawmakers off guard. Nevertheless, legislative leaders said they will not buck the governor's decisions on the $71.5 billion budget.
In a short statement, Senate President Ken Pruitt said the work on the budget was now done and that he had ''no intention'' of supporting any effort to override Crist's vetoes.
There are questions over whether Crist overstepped his authority when he nixed the tuition hike for community colleges and universities, including Broward Community College, Miami-Dade College and Florida International University.

State University System Chancellor Mark Rosenberg said universities need the money to hire faculty and keep up with enrollment growth and predicted the governor's veto ``in all likelihood will be challenged.''

Florida's Board of Governors, the panel that oversees state universities, may consider a legal challenge at its June meeting.

''We thought [the tuition increase] was a very modest initiative by the Legislature to help us close the gap in funding to keep our doors open,'' said Rosenberg.

Crist, however, said it was the wrong time to hit families with a tuition hike.
He also said that a separate bill that authorizes higher tuition at the University of Florida, Florida State University and University of South Florida was ''doomed'' and that he will veto it as well.
''I feel for our students and I feel for their families,'' Crist said. ``They are paying higher insurance rates. They are paying higher property taxes. They are paying higher gas prices. I don't think it's right to make them pay higher tuition, too.''

Crist's vetoes cover every aspect of state government, from road projects to reading programs, to school construction, to programs that help minorities, seniors, the disabled and children. At least $24 million was cut from Miami-Dade -- which did get to keep tens of millions in the budget. Broward lost $13.9 million; Monroe $250,000.
Among the items cut: $1.3 million for streetscape improvements for Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale; $840,000 for Exponica International, a three-day Latin America cultural and trade festival in Miami, and $900,000 for a gospel music museum planned in Broward.
''I don't think there's any ink left in his veto pen,'' said Rep. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat and House minority leader. ``This was his chance to be a fiscal conservative.''

Crist said many of the projects he killed were ''meritorious'' but that some were more appropriately funded by local governments or private charities. The governor also vetoed projects viewed as likely to benefit a single private vendor, a rationale used to cut millions that legislators set aside for pilot reading programs.

Crist did give some leeway to items sought by top legislative leaders such as Pruitt and House Speaker Marco Rubio.

Crist left intact $20 million for Jackson Memorial Hospital that was a top priority for Rubio and did not touch more than $40 million to help Florida Atlantic University take over the troubled Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution.

''They are leaders in the legislative branch, and they don't ask for things unless they think they are very, very important,'' Crist said. ``I tried to honor that.''
Miami Herald staff writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this story. "

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