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Forensic Training Facility Among Local Projects Vetoed By Scott

Mark Schreiner
WUSF 89.7 News
This field at a Pasco Forensic Training Facility will allow forensic researchers to study decomposition of bodies in Florida's environment. However, it won't receive $4.3 million from the state this year thanks to Gov. Scott's veto.

Among the $410 million worth of projects struck from the new state budget by Governor Rick Scott's veto pen are a number of items with ties to the Tampa Bay area.

The forensic training research facility being built in Pasco County that would be led by University of South Florida anthropologists will not receive the $4.3 million officials had hoped for.

Scott said the center should be under the management of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco responded on Twitter late Friday, saying they remain committed to building the facility. He had previously indicated they would seek private funding in case of a veto.

In May, Dr. Erin Kimmerle, director of the Florida Institute of Forensic Anthropology and Applied Science at USF said backers of the project are "all in" even if Scott vetoes it.

"Our plan, no matter whether we get the funding this session or not, is to keep moving forward with it," Kimmerle said. "The Sheriff's Office will be putting up money for some of the other buildings, because there's actually multiple buildings planned for out here. And so whether it's fundraising and through USF and the Sheriff's Office, I mean the idea is that we're definitely moving forward."

Scott also vetoed a $15 million I-75 overpass, along with almost $3 million in other projects in Pasco County, where House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a sometimes enemy of the governor is from.

Some viewed the Pasco vetoes as Scott harboring a grudge against the speaker.

County Tax Collector Mike Fasano told the Tampa Bay Times, "This is a smack in the face to Corcoran, that's all this is. This is the governor playing silly politics. The people of Pasco will remember at election time."

Scott cut another $9.5 million in various projects across USF, including $2.4 million for the Sports Medicine and Athletics Related Trauma (SMART) Institute and $1.2 million for the Florida Institute of Oceanography.

However, the $12 million earmarked for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Health Institute in downtown Tampa survived. That money comes on top of about $79 million already given by the state over the last few years. The new funds mean construction should begin as scheduled later this year.

Over $1.1 million dollars for Moffitt Cancer Center's research into medical marijuana was slashed.

Scott also eliminated four million dollars for a wellness center at Saint Leo University, saying the school had already raised tuition by three percent.

Ruth Eckerd Hall lost one million dollars in proposed expansion funds. Forward Pinellas lost the same amount, money officials hoped to use to improve water transportation in the Tampa Bay Area. Both the Countryside Sports Complex in Clearwater and the Tampa Bay Center for Innovation were also set to receive one million dollars each but now won't.

A project that would dredge the Anclote River in Tarpon Springs lost its $920,000 in funding, while the Florida Orchestra's "Beyond the Bay" program will not receive $500,000. Hillsborough Community College lost $250,000 for the Brandon Community Advantage Center.

The rest of the $80 billion-plus budget will go into effect July 1. You can see the full list of Scott's vetoes by clicking here.

Lawmakers will return to Tallahassee later this week for a special three-day session to discuss funding for public schools, economic-development and tourism.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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