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Legislature giveth, governor taketh away

In total, Hillsborough lost $4.5-million worth of projects to vetoes. But several major USF spending measures survived.

By BILL VARIAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 6, 2002


TAMPA -- The University of South Florida was one of the big local losers after Gov. Jeb Bush used his veto pen Wednesday, but school officials aren't complaining.

Bush axed $1.88-million legislators had sought for USF to establish a center for stroke study and treatment with Tampa General Hospital. In all, Hillsborough lost $4.5-million worth of projects to vetoes.

But several major spending initiatives for USF survived, including $25-million to build and start staffing a new Alzheimer's disease research center at the campus. The project had the backing of speaker-in-waiting Johnnie Byrd, R-Plant City.

The school also got the first installment of beefed up spending at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, $2.8-million to bring USF closer to spending at other Florida research universities and $9.5-million to pay for expected increases in enrollment.

USF also is getting money for part of the construction of a Natural and Environmental Sciences Building, remodeling of its Chemistry Building and construction of a Nursing/Health Care and Education Center. And that's just the Tampa campus.

"From our perspective, (the stroke initiative) was a worthwhile partnership and we're disappointed we didn't get the funding for it," said USF spokesman Michael Reich. "But overall the budget was a huge victory for USF, and in turn a victory for the region."

He attributed the school's success this year to a conservative lobbying effort by USF president Judy Genshaft and the board of trustees.

Others were less fortunate. Hillsborough County commissioners lost out on two of the initiatives they had pressed before the Legislature. While Alzheimer's research won big, the county lost $100,000 it had sought to provide services at its senior centers for people suffering from the disease.

Bush also rejected another $1-million the county had sought to acquire right of way for the Brandon Main Street revitalization project. The money was to be used for upgrading roads that will feed the soon-to-be-expanded Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway.

"(The need) was very soundly documented," said Edith Stewart, intergovernmental relations manager for Hillsborough County. "It's a disappointment."

Also hurting after Wednesday vetoes was the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Dover. The group specializes in studying new or improved growing and marketing methods for strawberry growers and had sought $850,000 to upgrade its research center.

However, the center had received the allotment last year and did not spend it on time. Now it won't get the money at all, unless officials there try again next year.

"That's a real bummer," said Stewart. "That center generates a lot of money for Hillsborough County.

The Hillsborough School District also lost out on $360,000 it was seeking for mental health services. In all, 11 spending projects in the county were cut Wednesday by Bush.

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