Florida’s largest cities were hit the hardest when Gov. Rick Scott this week vetoed more than $461 million from the state budget, according to a data analysis by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.
The record budget cuts are most evident in Florida’s most populous counties — Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Duval, Orange and Pinellas — which together will absorb more than $164 million in cuts to programs and infrastructure specifically intended for those counties.
Miami-Dade County alone received $43.3 million in cuts. Of Scott’s 450 specific reductions, 94 were in Miami-Dade County.
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Orange County, home to Orlando, came in second behind Miami-Dade, with $38.5 million lost to the veto pen. Tampa Bay’s Pinellas and Hillsborough counties followed, with $23.7 million and $16.8 million in reductions, respectively.
Duval County, home to Jacksonville, lost $14.8 million in funding, while Palm Beach County won’t see $11.6 million in services and projects.
Alachua County, home to Gainesville, led in budget cuts to smaller counties, losing $11.8 million in funding, due primarily to projects and programs that would have gone to the University of Florida.
These per-county numbers do not include the more than $161.3 million in cuts to statewide programs, which also would have benefitted Florida’s largest population centers.
In general, Gov. Scott spread the cuts out across the state. The vetoes hit all but 18 of Florida’s 67 counties. The counties spared were mostly rural and in the north and central parts of the state, such as Dixie and Baker counties.
When considered based on population, the budget cuts may be felt most in a select few rural counties. The $4.2 million in cuts in Glades County amounts to about $305 per resident, and the $8.8 million lost in Jackson County equals $181 per resident.
Among urban counties, Orange fared the worst on a per capita basis, with $30 lost per person. While Miami-Dade took the most cuts, Florida’s most populous county fared relatively well on a per capita basis, with $16 cuts for each resident.
State Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, said the cuts were made indiscriminately and without adequate explanation.
“Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade took big hits, and nobody knows why,” said Jones, who represents suburban Broward County. “Many of these programs are ones the governor has supported in the past, so nobody knows the impetus to why he cut these programs now.”
On Tuesday, Scott’s office released an 85-page letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner praising the cuts as returning hundreds of millions “in taxes back to hardworking families.”
Scott wrote: “Tax revenue is generated by Floridians who are working hard to provide for their families, and we are committed to effectively using these dollars by investing them in areas with proven results.”
The governor’s letter offers explanations for the specific cuts and criticizes local programs for not creating a return on investment across the state. For example, the $8.8 million in Jackson County would have gone to fund one year of construction costs on a new high school. Scott wrote that the money was vetoed because it wasn’t recognized as a “high priority” by the Department of Education’s Special Facilities Committee. In Glades County, a career readiness program lost funding because there is “not a clear statewide return on investment.”
The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting is a nonprofit news organization supported by foundations and individual contributions. For more information, visit fcir.org.