Bush signs Florida budget, vetoing $449 million in spending


Published: Thursday, June 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 at 11:21 a.m.

Aggressively wielding his veto pen, Gov. Jeb Bush on May 25 signed the last budget of his administration, after eliminating nearly $449 million in spending from the annual appropriations bill.

Although Bush’s veto total exceeded his 2004 record by $100 million, in reality the cuts didn’t put much of a dent in the $73.9 billion budget (HB 5001) that includes generous increases for state schools, the environment, health care and other state programs.

Although state spending has reached record levels, Bush insisted the new budget reflects his fiscal conservatism by also providing nearly $300 million in tax cuts.

With his vetoes, Bush also said the state will increase its savings by nearly $2.7 billion this year, bringing the state’s budget reserves to more than $6 billion to help in future years when the state may face an emergency or its revenues may not be so abundant.

Bush highlighted the significant increases most state programs will see under the new budget, which takes effect July 1.

Public schools will see a $1.8 billion increase in their operational funds, as well as a $2.2 billion boost to help them meet the requirements of the state’s class-size initiative.

Environmental programs will have a record year, highlighted by the state’s commitment to spend $310 million to acquire the 74,000-acre Babcock Ranch in Charlotte and Lee counties. There is also another $300 million for other environmental land purchases and $135 million to continue the restoration of The Everglades.

The Medicaid program for the state’s poorest and sickest residents will grow by $845 million in the new budget for a total of $15.9 billion. Programs for the developmentally disabled will benefit from a $68 million increase, which is part of a 160 percent increase for that program over Bush’s two terms in office.

On the criminal justice front, $74.5 million will be used to complete the construction of 2,200 new prison beds. Funding for juvenile justice programs will rise by 11.7 percent for a total of $709 million.

State workers will be in line for a 3 percent raise beginning Oct. 1.

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