On May 28, 2010, Gov. Crist signed HB 5001, the general appropriations act for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2010. He used his veto power to deny approval to $371 million in budget line items, concentrating on projects of local interest to Senate Ways and Means Chair JD Alexander (R-Lake Wales) and House Full Appropriations Chair David Rivera (R-Miami), who is running for election to the 25th Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.
The governor vetoed $211 million in specific spending items and a $160-million “sweep” of transportation trust fund money, which the appropriations bill tied to education spending, and the language linking the $160 million to education spending. Gov. Crist did not veto the education spending that was funded by the money swept from the transportation trust fund. House leaders have said that they are contemplating legal action against the veto because, they argue, the state constitution does not give the governor the authority to veto the provision linking the transportation trust fund sweep to education funding.
Many of the vetoes were directed at Polk County, which is represented by Sen. Alexander. The Polk County area vetoes included $35 million for the University of South Florida Polytechnic campus in Lakeland, $10 million for a pharmacy program at the Lakeland campus, and $12 million for Polk State College.
The Miami-Dade County area, which is represented by Rep. Rivera, saw the veto of a $32.5-million Miami-Dade Health Department-Florida International University project and a $21-million Miami-Dade College project.
The governor also vetoed a reduction in nursing home providers' Medicaid reimbursement rates and a prohibition on using state funds for stem cell research.
Legislative leaders reacted negatively to the vetoes. House Speaker Larry Cretul (R-Ocala) called the governor's actions an “apparent abuse of power.” Senate President Jeff Atwater (R-North Palm Beach) said that Gov. Crist was “fabricating” criticisms of the budget process and could put the state's bond rating at risk. Sen. Alexander, who described the line item vetoes as “punitive,” said, “I'm just disappointed. It's a petty personal vendetta.”