Gov. Ron DeSantis has nixed lawmakers’ hopes to build a new prison and prison hospital, which would have cost $840 million.
The Republican Governor axed the two projects on Thursday as he signed the state budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year, which begins next month. In total, DeSantis vetoed $3.1 billion from the $112.1 billion the Legislature approved during this year’s Legislative Session, leaving a $109.9 billion budget.
The first item called for $645 million to construct a new 4,500-bed correctional institution. The second item set aside $195 million for a 250-bed hospital unit to serve the medical needs of the state prison population, particularly elderly inmates.
DeSantis, however, did not veto private prison funding, with upward of $200 million OK’d by lawmakers.
When lawmakers were preparing the budget in late February and early March, the Senate’s lead justice budget negotiator, Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry, told reporters spending on new prisons would put the Department of Corrections (DOC) on the right track.
“It’s critical,” Perry said of the need for new prisons. “We have some facilities that look like the Green Mile when you walk into them.”
The $645 million reserve could have been used for architectural and engineering professional services, site preparation, construction and construction management. Plus, DOC could have used the funding to purchase land if no state or locally owned land was available.
DOC would have been asked to develop a design proposal and construction plans by Jan. 6, 2023. It would also have needed to submit quarterly status reports to the Governor’s Office and the House and Senate Appropriations committees once the project began.
It’s not the first time DeSantis has crushed the Legislature’s aspirations when it comes to updating the prison system. When the Governor vetoed more than $1 billion in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he scrapped $2 million to develop a master plan to modernize the state’s correctional infrastructure.
This year’s main budget bill (HB 5001) received only three “no” votes in either chamber: from Miami Democratic Reps. Mike Grieco and Dotie Joseph, and Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini of Howey-in-the-Hills. The $109.9 billion spending plan is about $8 billion more than the current year, about a 9% increase.