Lawmakers on the Joint Legislative Budget Commission last month approved $175 million for 238 local projects. But Gov. Ron DeSantis has essentially put a freeze on those funds, halting the money from being distributed.
The budget signed by DeSantis authorizing the Local Support Grants states “the Executive Office of the Governor shall submit an Administered Funds budget amendment no later than September 30, 2022, to distribute the funds for Local Support Grants to the appropriate state agencies for disbursement.”
DeSantis, though, hasn’t sent that budget amendment, placing the funds on hold.
On Sept. 23, one week before the deadline to submit the amendment, DeSantis issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency due to a tropical depression that would later turn into Hurricane Ian, which battered the state and has left more than 100 people dead and devastation in its wake.
Florida law gives DeSantis broad powers in a state of emergency, including waiving laws and regulations to streamline response and recovery to a hurricane or other natural disaster. But it’s unclear why DeSantis hasn’t sanctioned disbursement of the Local Support Grant funds. A DeSantis spokeswoman didn’t respond to an email seeking comment Thursday.
Next week the LBC will meet to approve $360 million in new spending authority for hurricane recovery efforts.
But the $175 million the same panel approved last month will remain on hold. A spokeswoman for House Speaker Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican, didn’t return an email Thursday.
Some of the projects were similar to projects vetoed by DeSantis when he took action on the state’s $109 billion budget. The largest Local Support Grant would send $15 million to the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus for a flood hub and applied research facility. DeSantis vetoed $75 million in the budget for USF’s Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences Research and Training facility.