DeSantis’ Vetoes ‘Punish’ Everyday Floridians, State Republican Senator Says

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By Giselle Balido

June 16, 2023

State Sen. Joe Gruters, the only state lawmaker in the legislature to endorse Donald Trump for president over Gov. Ron DeSantis, calls the governor’s vetoes an act of political retribution.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a $116.5 billion state budget for the Fiscal Year 2023-24 at a ceremony held Thursday in Fort Piece. But first, he axed about $511 million in funding for projects and programs requested by lawmakers across the state. 

Whether it’s nixing $100 million in payments to farmers who agree to preserve their land from development or killing $30.8 million in funds to acquire Kirkland Ranch for water and conservation purposes, the cuts in the budget DeSantis is calling a “Framework for Freedom” affect almost every district in Florida. 

However, few communities received as many vetoes from the Republican governor as Sarasota. The projects cut by DeSantis include $20 million to expand nursing and STEM-related programs at the University of South Florida’s Sarasota-Manatee campus, $4 million to widen a segment of Fruitville Road, and $1 million to potentially create a new Midnight Pass, as well as funding for some other projects requested by Sarasota area nonprofits.

Sen. Joe Gruters, Sarasota County’s longest serving state lawmaker, is calling the governor’s action an act of political retribution. 

Punishing Ordinary Floridians 

The reason is clear to Gruters. After DeSantis announced in May he would run for the White House, one hundred state lawmakers endorsed him over Donald Trump. To date, Gruters remains the only state lawmaker to endorse Trump for president over DeSantis. 

RELATED: Poll Shows DeSantis 40 Points Behind Trump With Likely GOP Primary Voters

“Simply because I support his political opponent, the governor chose to punish ordinary Floridians who want better water quality, less traffic congestion and increased resources for disabled children,” said Gruters, who was also co-chair of Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016, and twice brought the former president to Sarasota to receive the local GOP’s “Statesman of the Year” award. 

Gruters’ rift with the governor didn’t begin with his endorsement of Trump over DeSantis. In April, when the Florida Senate voted in favor of a bill that would further undermine the Disney Corporation’s control of its resort in the state, Gruters was the only Florida Republican to vote against the measure, even though he had initially agreed with it. 

But DeSantis’ alleged retaliatory acts appear not to have stopped with Gruter. 

A Flurry of Vetoes

Also axed by the governor was Brevard County’s proposed $2 million state budget for an aquarium that the Brevard Zoo planned to build at Port Canaveral. 

It has been pointed out that, coincidentally, Florida Rep. Randy Fine (R-Melbourne Beach) encouraged the governor to veto the funding after a rift with the zoo that began when it nixed his plans to rent space for a political fundraising event for his 2024 Florida Senate campaign.

RELATED: Sen. Geraldine Thompson: Florida Is ‘Free Only if You Agree’ With Gov. DeSantis

Similarly, legislators who did not endorse the governor’s presidential campaign right before he announced his bid for the candidacy last month may have been the target of DeSantis’ veto power. 

For example, DeSantis also vetoed nearly $30 million in energy programs overseen by Republican Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, in addition to nixing the $100 million for rural conservation and land protection. Simpson has stayed neutral in the primary fight between Trump and DeSantis and openly questioned DeSantis’ decision.

“There is no conceivable reason to target agriculture in a year when we have billions of dollars in reserves,” said Simpson. “Agriculture was harmed today and so was the state of Florida.”

Democrats’ Feel the Losses

Democrats also saw projects killed by the governor’s veto pen. St. Petersburg Democratic Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby had two projects axed: $1.15 million for the Well Center for Trauma Recovery Wellness and Healing Justice, which serves survivors of violent crimes and their families, and $180,960 to mitigate flooding problems at a residential substance use treatment program for pregnant and parenting women.

“The decision to veto these projects not only disregards the needs of many Floridians, but targets Black and Brown people, who are often more likely to experience violent crimes and substance use disorders,” Rayner-Gooslby said in a statement.

Nearly 40% of state Democrats’ appropriations were vetoed by the governor, an analysis by House Democrats concluded.

“Unfortunately, DeSantis cut half a billion dollars from projects to keep Floridians healthy, protect us from storms, and improve our schools and roads,” said House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa).  “Ron DeSantis […] made Florida worse off today.”

Rep. Rita Harris, an Orlando Democrat, agreed: “Many good projects that would have relieved Florida’s taxpayers with everything from flood water mitigation to neighborhood resource centers were vetoed because the governor is disconnected from the needs of average Floridians.”

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Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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