School officials believe DeSantis will fund the USF science center • St Pete Catalyst

Despite a veto by Governor Ron DeSantis vetoing funding for a new oceanographic science center, on the St. Petersburg campus of the University of South Florida, many local actors said it was only a year of state support.

Since DeSantis cut $ 75 million for a new oceanographic science center on the St. Petersburg campus, he spoke at the first meeting of the USF Board of Trustees from the state budget, following a recent meeting with President Will Weatherford with the governor. Jeff Brandes after the June 2 veto.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Weatherford, the former president of the Florida House, said the governor approved the transformative project, not just the asking price.

“When you make the best legislature ever and it gives you hundreds of millions of dollars and the governor vetoes $ 3 billion projects in the budget, we would lose something,” Weatherford said.

“I think we were all disappointed that it was the EOS (Environmental and Oceanographic Science Research and Teaching Facility) building, but I had a very strong conversation with him and his staff, and I want everyone to know that there are no philosophical challenges or problems.” .

$ 80 million EOS yield. Board of Trustees Will Weatherford and Senator Jeff Brandes believe the $ 75 million budget request was too high this year.

Weatherford believes the problem was with the amount of money required for a special installation.

In November 2021, USF President Rhea Law told St. Petersburg City Council that he had asked the State Parliament for $ 30 million this year and $ 30 million in 2023 to start building the EOS. The university expects the facility to cost more than $ 80 million, with the Florida Board of Governors recommending that USF contribute $ 20 million.

In the March legislature, House and Senate lawmakers – a Palm Harbor resident, a former USF student and House Speaker Chris Sprowls – led by Republican Speaker – raised funding for the project from $ 60 million to $ 75 million.

“The governor and his team assured me that if he comes back next year, they will be supportive,” Weatherford said.

In an interview on June 6th CatalystBrandes, who attended the session, said the increase in the budget request for the legislature is a bridge. He believes the governor and his staff thought there would be better use of $ 75 million this year, but in the end, the school will receive significant funding for the center next year, “when they come back and sharpen their pencils what the real cost will be. “But it’s not going to be $ 75 million,” Brandes said.

Brandes believes that if the supporters of the facility split the funding into two years, he would survive the governor’s veto. However, when a leader wants to remove $ 3 billion from a budget, “you’ll start with the first big projects.”

“You take a machete to big projects, and that’s what he did,” Brandes said. “Especially when you feel that the projects are focused on areas of leadership.”

EOS, Brandes said, was seen as a Sprowls project. The governor also vetoed some of Senate President Wilton Simpson’s major initiatives, citing a lack of cost and inclusiveness to other areas of Florida.

“You can eliminate 100 projects from other members and not reach $ 50 million,” Brandes said. “I think it was the failure of the House and the Senate to negotiate with the governor’s office on this issue and to have a good understanding of where they wanted to land.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, Law told participants that the St. Petersburg campus had received $ 3 million in operational support, $ 6.5 million in deferred maintenance – “necessary” – and $ 5.5 million in research and innovation for the Florida Flood Hub. . .

The law also assured them that EOS is still at the top of the USF’s list of capital improvements. The university management said it would spend a year planning and securing facilities before returning to Parliament.

The law emphasized the importance of EOS for the university and the City of St. Petersburg, and thanked the community for supporting a transformative project. He also credited the heads of business who sent letters to the state leadership to express the benefits of the facility.

“More importantly, thank you for what they will do,” Law added. “Because we’re going back, and we’re coming back strong. Is not it?”

“Yes,” Weatherford replied firmly and briefly.

“You take it for granted,” he said, referring to the more than $ 244 million in funding allocated to the university. “But there was a lot more good than bad this year.”

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