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Bush trims pork, signs budget

By STEVE BOUSQUET, Times Staff Writer
Published May 26, 2005

TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law the new $64.7-billion budget Thursday, and he vetoed about $180-million in spending on projects he said were not needed or were not recommended by any state agency.

In signing what he called "a pretty darn good budget," Bush praised lawmakers for their $1.3-billion increase in spending on public schools, $1.5-billion to control sprawl and an additional $1-billion in the bank for future emergencies such as hurricanes.

But he once again chided lawmakers for spending on projects that he said did not meet a statewide need or should not be paid for with state tax dollars.

Vetoed projects include highway improvements in Hillsborough County; repairs to bridges in Dunedin; grants to performing arts centers in Dunedin and Tampa; and health clinics, hospital grants and water projects throughout the Tampa Bay region.

"In general, these are well-intended projects," Bush told a news conference. "I do not believe that it is a statewide purpose to fund a lot of the programs that you saw there."

Some legislators were upset with Bush's vetoes. Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said Bush's office axed $50,000 for a summer camp program in Pasco County.

"It disappoints me that the governor's staff would penalize 35 disadvantaged children," Fasano said.

One of the largest local projects Bush did approve was $4-million to begin the relocation of a collection of Salvador Dali art works in downtown St. Petersburg.

"I almost did" veto it, Bush said, but he struck a deal with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker. In return for the state's $4-million, Bush said, the city will spend a greater amount to develop a park on the city's waterfront.

Bush said it was "troubling" that the Legislature dipped into a land-conservation program to pay for the Dali project, and he said he told city officials they could not try make a similar request next year.

"All bets are off next year. Don't come back," Bush said.

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