- July 16, 2015
WEST ORANGE — Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a $78.2 billion budget June 23, once he had vetoed about $461.4 million from it, including $38.5 million from Orange County — second only to Miami-Dade County at $43.3 million.
Altogether, West Orange County lost just shy of $4.1 million from Scott’s vetoes, with $150,000 removed from Pine Hills community redevelopment; $193,380 slashed from Winter Garden’s Avalon Road (County Road 545) reuse main extension; $250,000 withheld from Ocoee’s Franklin Street Trail project —which Scott labeled as Winter Garden’s; and $1 million cut from Oakland’s South Lake Apopka Initiative.
The largest cut in West Orange County was $2.5 million from the Independence Parkway Interchange and Wellness Way, a highway local infrastructure leaders have planned to connect U.S. Highway 27 to State Road 429.
On the Wellness Way cut, District 1 Orange County Commissioner S. Scott Boyd said $2.5 million would have made a huge dent in funding the project, which he called a big priority for not only to him but also to Lake County. The project will connect U.S. 27 to State Road 429.
“What we’re looking at with the Central Florida Expressway Authority with Chairman (Welton) Cadwell from Lake County is a plan with a corridor that can lead south to (U.S. Highway) 192 from (State Road) 50,” said Boyd, the authority’s vice chairman. “If you look back, Lake County is doing their sector plan that runs through that area, over to (U.S. Highway) 27 and New Independence Parkway. This very well may be a road the Expressway Authority utilizes and puts in some money, which was not even on the table a few years ago before it became a regulating board. Now it’s Lake, Osceola, Orange and Seminole counties.”
Lake County has these opportunities to connect to the regional toll system, which took a hit but now just forces the Authority to be more creative, Boyd said. He called a plan for this project his goal in his last 16 months as commissioner and said there can be many reasons for the many cuts in this area.
Andrea Vaughn, Winter Garden community relations manager, said city staff did not know who put in the request for state funding for the reuse main extension. The staff did request funding for fiber optics, which went through, she said.
Lavon Williams, manager of the Orange County Neighborhoods Office, has worked extensively on redevelopment plans for Pine Hills. She said those working on such plans did not have that money within their plans but that a local state representative likely had submitted that request.
“The Legislature was probably trying to help fund a master plan for the Pine Hills and Silver Star (roads) intersection,” Williams said. “If we had received the funding, it would have let us move forward faster, but we are still planning to proceed with the master plan in that area.”
For the funding vetoes in West Orange County, Scott wrote the following reasons:
• Independence Parkway Interchange/Wellness Way: “circumvent(s) the Economic Development Transportation - Road Fund evaluation process.”
• Oakland - South Lake Apopka Initiative: “did not provide a clear statewide return for the investment.”
• Ocoee - Franklin Street Trail: “circumvent(s) the Transportation Work Program process.”
• Winter Garden SW Reuse Phase 2-C.R. 545 Reuse Main Extension: “did not provide a clear statewide return for the investment.”
• Pine Hills Community Redevelopment Master Plan: “circumvent(s) current established review processes and funding is available through other sources.”
Note: “Central Florida" refers to the low estimate of Orange and the six counties surrounding it (Brevard, Lake, Osceola, Polk, Seminole, Volusia).
Among the biggest cuts in Central Florida was $15 million for a building for University of Central Florida’s downtown Orlando campus. Scott did not veto a similar project for the University of South Florida. Scott wrote that he vetoed UCF's project “because the project circumvented the Board of Governors’ facility request process.”
The Tampa area, which draws primarily from Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, was not far behind the Miami and Orlando areas among metropolis-centered counties. Following were Broward County — centered on Ft. Lauderdale — and Duval County, which has Jacksonville as its seat.
The $461.4 million in vetoed money represents the most under Scott since 2011, the year he took office and cut $615.3 million. Although the budget has steadily increased since 2011, Scott’s cuts have fluctuated from his inaugural high to as low as $68.9 million last year, which was 11.2% of the value of his 2011 cuts. His cuts have increased with budget increases: His biggest cut years followed an increase of around $4 billion in the budget.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].