Fla. Gov. will veto 3 percent college tuition hike

Published: Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 5:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 5:51 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has maintained steadfast opposition to raising the cost of college for students, will veto a proposed 3 percent tuition hike.

The Republican-led Florida Legislature included the hike in a $74.5 billion budget passed earlier this month.

Scott planned to sign the budget into law on Monday, but he is expected to veto numerous spending items, including the proposed tuition hike. The hike was expected to generate close to $50 million for the state's public universities and colleges.

In a copy of his veto message first obtained by The Associated Press, Scott writes that Floridians should be glad that tuition rates are low.

"Just as we are proud to be one of only a few states without a state income tax, and one of only a few states that have cut taxes and paid down state debt, even in tough budget years, we should also be proud to keep tuition low," Scott wrote.

Scott pointed out that he had to work while he was in college in order to pay for it and said students should be able to graduate and get a job without being burdened by "massive debt."

This year's budget marks the first time in years that state legislators have not had to enact spending cuts to balance the budget. Legislators restored a $300 million cut to state universities they passed a year earlier and they increased overall funding to both universities and colleges.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, still pushed for a tuition hike despite Scott's opposition. He justified the hike by pointing out that Florida tuition rates remain among the lowest in the nation.

Scott, however, justified his veto by including quotes from top higher education officials in his veto message. University of Florida President Bernie Machen said that since lawmakers provided a "badly needed funding increase" his institution would not be seeking a tuition increase.

There are legal questions about whether Scott has the power to veto the tuition hike because of the way lawmakers authorized it.

The money for the tuition hike is embedded in large sums set aside for colleges and universities. Lawmakers then wrote a budget provision that sets the tuition amount 3 percent higher.

Scott is vetoing this "proviso" language even though the state constitution says the governor "may not veto any qualification or restriction without also vetoing the appropriation to which it relates."

Former Gov. Charlie Crist back in 2007 also vetoed a proposed tuition hike. Yet despite questions about his authority, the veto stood because no one challenged it in court.

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