JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s top tax watchdog group is recommending the Governor consider slashing $75 million for a new UF campus downtown included in the proposed state budget.
The Governor has previously said he supports the investment, but new developments could steer him in a different direction.
The new report published by Florida TaxWatch identifies local projects in Northeast Florida totaling more than $175 million the Governor should consider vetoing out of this year’s state budget.
The $75 million proposed state investment in a new UF grad campus downtown is by far the largest so-called ‘budget turkey’ included.
“The turkey designation doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a wasteful project or not a good project,” said Kurt Wenner with Florida TaxWatch.
Wenner explained the money for the campus made the list because it wasn’t vetted properly.
“If it would have shown up on the Board of Governor’s priority list and went through the statutory process that they have where they assign points and they rank things in priority it wouldn’t have been on the list,” said Wenner.
Back in May, Governor Ron DeSantis indicated his support for the state investment.
“I think that there’s a clear vision of how this can be successful and I think there’s been huge support for it from the local community,” said DeSantis.
Even if the ‘budget turkey’ designation doesn’t change the Governor’s mind, a new push by the Jaguars to incorporate the proposed campus into its stadium renovation plans could potentially impact the Governor’s calculation when deciding whether to approve the funds.
UNF political science professor Dr. Michael Binder pointed out Florida lawmakers have opposed propping up sports team projects with state dollars in recent years.
“These are things that are, the more complicated you make them, the more difficult they are to make happen,” said Binder.
But Northeast Florida State Representative Sam Garrison (R-Orange Park) doesn’t see state support wavering for the campus.
“It’s a local issue between the City of Jacksonville and the Jaguars and we’ll focus on the University of Florida, which is our responsibility,” said Garrison.
In addition to the proposed state investment, the City of Jacksonville is expected to spend $50 million on the new campus over the course of three years.
A private fundraising campaign is also expected to generate an additional $50 million towards the project.
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