Governor DeSantis holds $840 million for prison construction

Govt. Ron DeSantis dashed lawmakers’ hopes of building a new prison and prison hospital, which would have cost $840 million.

The Republican governor ended both projects on Thursday by signing the state budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year, which begins next month. Altogether, DeSantis vetoed $3.1 billion of the $112.1 billion the Legislative Assembly approved in this year’s legislative session, leaving a budget of $109.9 billion.

The first item was $645 million for the construction of a new 4,500-bed correctional facility. The second item was $195 million for a 250-bed hospital unit to meet the medical needs of the state’s prison population, especially elderly inmates.

DeSantis, however, did not veto funding for private prisons, with more than $200 million accepted by lawmakers.

When lawmakers were preparing the budget in late February and early March, the chief justice budget negotiator in the Senate, Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perrytold reporters that spending on new prisons put the Department of Corrections (DOC) on the right track.

“It’s essential,” Perry said of the need for new prisons. “We have facilities that look like the Green Mile when you walk into it.”

The $645 million reserve could have been used for architectural and engineering professional services, site preparation, construction, and construction management. Additionally, the DOC could have used the funding to purchase land if no state or local land was available.

The DOC would have been asked to develop a design proposal and construction plans by January 6, 2023. It would also have had to submit quarterly progress reports to the Governor’s Office and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees once the project has started.

This isn’t the first time DeSantis has crushed the Legislature’s aspirations to update the prison system. When the Governor vetoed over $1 billion in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he scrapped $2 million develop a master plan to modernize the state’s correctional infrastructure.

This year’s Main Finance Bill (HB5001) received only three “no” votes in both houses: Democratic representatives from Miami. Mike Grieco and Dotie Josephand Republican representative. Antoine Sabatini of Howey-in-the-Hills. The $109.9 billion spending plan is about $8 billion more than the current year, an increase of about 9%.

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