Gov. Rick Scott signed the 2013-14 state budget into law today.
He also sent a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner explaining his decision to veto a tuition hike. “We are also holding the line on tuition by vetoing the Legislature’s recommended 3 percent tuition increase on our college and university students,” the governor wrote.
The veto was expected, since Scott has been clear about not supporting any increase in tuition. Plus, university presidents had already pledged not to ask for a tuition hike.
The Legislature crafted a budget totaling $74.5 billion. Gov. Scott cut $368 million of that.
The end result includes $20.3 billion in total funding for K-12 education.
Scott said his “filter” in determining whether to veto each item came down to these questions:
- Does it help families get more jobs?
- Does it improve the state's education system?
- Does it make government more efficient in order to keep the cost of living low?
“In my case and my wife's case, we didn't have parents that could pay for higher education. So the cost of tuition was very significant to us,” Scott said.
“This is not a political decision. This is a decision for Florida families,” Scott said. “Tuition cannot continue to go up the way it's been going up.”
Ed Moore, president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, said Scott seems to be looking at tuition as a tax.
“He is of the mindset that he wants to hold costs down,” Moore said, “but someone’s paying for it. Whether the consumer is going to pay for it directly or it’s going to be in higher state payments to those universities… you don’t buy quality on the cheap."
“Those costs have to be met somehow,” Moore said.
Scott said he's asked university and college presidents to think about how they can make sure students get degrees that will result in jobs.
“When they finish, do they have a job? Could they afford their education? How much debt are they going to have? We cannot put our students in a position where they can't afford higher education,” Scott said.
There's been a question as to whether Scott's tuition veto is constitutional because it's not an actual line item. Scott said he'll fight any legal challenge to the veto.
The governor also rejected $14 million for a STEM building at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City. The project was on Florida Taxwatch's annual list of “budget turkeys” recommended for vetoes.
More comments from Gov. Scott during his budget announcement:
- “We were able to put more money into the budget this year for a second year in a row in K-12 education – over a billion dollars, two years in a row. This year included $480 million for teacher pay raises.”
- “According to Education Week, we're number 6 in the country in education. Our 4th graders are number two in the world in reading. Our 4th and 8th graders are making better student achievement gains than any other large state.”
- "Our teachers are great. According to the National Council for Teacher Quality, we have the most effective teachers in the country.”
Margie Menzel with News Service of Florida contributed to this report.