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Will Rick Scott’s veto pen affect Northeast Florida priorities?

Northeast Florida, like the rest of the state, waits for Gov. Rick Scott to review the budget from the Florida Legislature.

Scott has been typically vague on his real disposition on the budget: the new-school “Veto Corleone” hasn’t ruled out a full-on veto, or line item vetoes.

And in recent months, Gov. Scott has been a frequent visitor to the Jacksonville area, laying into the area’s State Representatives – who, except for Jay Fant, voted with House Speaker Richard Corcoran on incentive votes (Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida).

Will those votes (Faustian bargains for many freshman legislators) affect Scott’s dispensation on regional projects?

The Governor won’t say. But here’s what’s at stake, county by county.

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Baker County

Of all the counties in the region, Baker has the least to worry about in terms of vetoes.

The most ambitious ask: $2.75M for a road project.

However, it is worth noting that Baker’s State Representative, Republican Elizabeth Porter, was targeted as recently as march by robocalls from Scott’s political committee, “Let’s Get to Work.”

“Unfortunately, your state representative … is playing politics with Florida’s jobs … voted to decimate Florida’s tourism and jobs programs. And that will destroy our economy and lead to higher taxes,” the ad said.

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Clay County

Also targeted in the aforementioned March robocall: Clay Republican Travis Cummings, who was set up for more than a soupcon of Scott scorn anytime the Governor was in the Jacksonville media market.

“How could somebody do this … are any of these jobs expendable? Call Travis, ask him ‘why would you do this’,” Scott urged in March, after Cummings went against incentives in a committee.

Clay’s asks include lots of small-dollar projects – relatively speaking – including money for a community theater and for road resurfacing projects.

However, there are two long bombs mixed in with the dink-and-dunk passing game: $13.3M for the St. Johns River and Keystone Lakes projects, and $103.7M for right of way land acquisition for the First Coast Expressway.

Don’t expect these to hit the cutting room floor; a powerful ally and friend of Gov. Scott, Fleming Island Republican Rob Bradley, carried these measures through the Senate.

“After years of researching and talking and planning, we now have actual funding to start addressing the needs of these wonderful natural resources that define our region,” Bradley remarked regarding the $13.3M project earlier this month.

A few days later, at an interminably long mid-May ribbon cutting event on a sun-baked blacktop in Jacksonville, Bradley addressed that issue again … managing to mix contrition and levity.

“We didn’t get things with this budget,” Bradley said. “Governor, I wish we could have done better this session.”

“Whatever you do, we understand,” the Clay County Senator said. “Just don’t do anything about the Keystone Lakes though.”

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Duval County

The paradox here: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is a friend and political ally of Gov. Scott; the local legislative delegation – Republicans and Democrats alike – went against Scott on incentive votes.

One of those legislators, Rep. Jason Fischer, described the just-wrapped Legislative Session as a “strong” one, where “everybody got to eat.”

Problem is, of course, that until Scott signs the budget, that food can be taken out of everybody’s mouths.

Among the victuals: almost $14M for projects related to the Jacksonville International Airport; various bridge projects in areas of town that always get jobbed out on infrastructural spending; cultural grants and delinquency diversion programs; road projects, including $10M for arterial traffic management on the Buckman Bridge, and $25.9M for A1A; $15.5M for JAXPORT dredging; $73M for Florida State College at Jacksonville; $154M for University of North Florida.

Mayor Curry likely will be the key here to ensuring that Jacksonville comes out OK in the end.

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Nassau County

Of the 38 total projects for Nassau County, just four are asks over $1.6M.

The most expensive project: $11M for road resurfacing on SR 15 (US 1). There are also two projects related to the port of Fernandina Beach: $3.65M for dredging, and $3M for a crane and warehouse.

While Rep. Cord Byrd hasn’t exactly ingratiated himself with Gov. Scott, it’s hard to see where significant vetoes come from in Nassau County’s appropriations asks.

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St. Johns County

St. Johns County’s appropriations asks are different than many of the other counties in the region.

The biggest asks: $4.8M for Medicaid rate enhancement for Flagler Hospital, and $5.5M for VPK.

For a handful of road projects, requests are also modest, for roadway resurfacing, preliminary engineering studies, and right of way land acquisition.

The county is dealing with the pains brought on by rapid growth. And while the Governor’s veto pen could hurt constituents of Paul Renner and Cyndi Stevenson, there somehow seems to be less on the line for SJC than the other counties in the Jacksonville metropolitan area.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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