Budget, legislature criticized in race for Florida governor

By Troy Kinsey, Capitol Bureau Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, May 10, 2017, 6:59 PM EDT

The Florida Legislature's passage this week of an $82.4 billion budget conceived largely behind closed doors by Republican leaders has become the topic du jour on the 2018 campaign trail, with candidates for the state's top office criticizing the spending plan as a glaring example of Tallahassee's growing dysfunction.

  • Democrats running for governor blast new budget
  • Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum call on Gov. Scott to veto it
  • Republican Adam Putnam says line item veto is better

Nearly a quarter-century since they last won the Governor's mansion, Democrats believe next year's political environment -- featuring Republican control of the White House and Congress, factors that have historically resulted in Democratic midterm gains -- will be ripe for a comeback.

Within hours of the budget's passage Monday evening, Democratic gubernatorial candidates began calling on Gov. Rick Scott to veto it -- an action he says he's considering.

The Democrats also pledged things would be different on their watch, faulting Scott for failing to take an active role in budget negotiations.

"You all just saw them fumble through their one constitutional obligation, which is to pass a budget, and you saw that done in the most secretive manner it's ever been done, than any of you all can record," Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum told reporters Tuesday. "So, I don't have a lot of high hopes for the existing governor and legislature, but I do have high hopes for our opportunity should we be able to run this race and to win."

The inability of House and Senate Republicans to strike a timely deal threw the legislative session into overtime, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran's late-stage insistence that a nearly 300-page education bill heavy on charter school funding be inserted into the final plan was roundly criticized by transparency advocates.

The budget drama plays into a Capitol critique Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham has been making for months.

"Our state government is just dysfunctional," Graham proclaimed in a video to supporters last year.

Graham also called on Scott to veto the entire budget Tuesday. 

For now, the dominant Republican candidate for governor, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, is reacting in a more measured fashion.

"Vetoing the whole thing throws it back into the hands of the legislature, and it's a blunt force instrument," he said after a Wednesday rally to kick off his campaign.

But, Putnam added, he'd make heavy use of his line item veto pen if he received the budget the legislature just passed.