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USF leaders are hopeful state funding for a marine science center will come through next year

Two onlookers admire a modern, rectangular building with glass windows wrapping around its corner.
University of South Florida
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USF's St. Petersburg campus unveiled concept images for its new Environmental and Oceanographic Research and Teaching Facility in January. But Gov. Ron DeSantis' latest budget cuts left the building without funding.

University of South Florida Board chairman Will Weatherford assured officials that DeSantis would come around next year.

Members of the University of South Florida Board of Trustees are hopeful that $75 million in state funding for a proposed marine science center will come through next year.

At a meeting Wednesday, they discussed Governor Ron DeSantis' veto of the new oceanographic science center on USF’s St. Petersburg campus.

Carole Post, USF’s Vice President for Facilities and Public Safety Operations, said the marine center is still the first priority for the university despite the recent setback.

“We were optimistic about receiving the funding for that project,” she told the board. “That did not occur.”

USF Board chairperson Will Weatherford assured officials that DeSantis would come around next year.

Weatherford, a former Florida House Speaker, said he met with DeSantis and his staff, who told him the cuts were made due to the high cost, and not an issue with the building.

An artist's rendition of a modern, glass building has plenty of parking space and water access.
University of South Tampa
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A mock-up of USF St. Petersburg's new Environmental and Oceanographic Research and Teaching Facility shows plans for the facility to have much-needed water access.

DeSantis boasted about making the largest line item vetoes in the state’s history this year, which totaled $3.1 billion.

“What we’re doing in the budget is making sure we’re responsible,” DeSantis said in a June 2 press conference in The Villages. “Making sure we’re meeting the obligations, making sure we’re funding key priorities.”

State Representative Ben Diamond (D-St. Petersburg) said in a statement he was “outraged” that DeSantis vetoed funding for the marine center.

“This is a devastating loss for St. Petersburg residents and all Floridians, as this new facility would produce critical research in Florida’s fight against climate change,” Diamond said. “As sea levels continue to rise, we must equip researchers with the tools and facilities to combat this enormous threat.”

USF President Rhea Law thanked the St. Petersburg community for supporting the center while also asking them to double down.

“It’s important to our community, it’s important to the university as a whole, and it’s certainly important to St. Petersburg,” she said. “We’re going back, and we’re going back strong.”

Jack Prator is the WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for summer of 2022.