DeSantis approves $245 million in legislative requests to USF in annual state budget

While the budget approved many university projects to be funded, the governor vetoed a handful of them as well. ORACLE PHOTO/ALEXANDRA URBAN

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the state budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year into law Thursday, which granted USF about $245 million in legislative appropriations, according to a universitywide email sent by President Rhea Law.

Law said the budget includes the largest single-year investment in operational support the university has ever received, and will aid in USF’s goal of rising as a prominent university in the national ranks.

“These investments will help USF progress toward our strategic goals, including investing in student and faculty success, building our research profile, making a greater impact on the community and ultimately support our quest toward becoming a top 25 public university,” Law said.

Included in the budget is a $55 million recurring increase to the university’s operational budget, $33 million to remodel USF Health facilities and $72.8 million to invest in the maintenance and repairs for all three campuses.

The increased operational budget will include new funds for all campuses and USF Health. The email also said remodeling USF Health facilities will add the necessary capacity for additional nursing students, as well as implement new simulation equipment.

Other approved requests included $37 million to Cyber Florida at USF and $20.5 million for cybersecurity workforce development, research and simulation activities at USF.

USF will also receive $7 million to expand its nursing programs. The program will get another $5 million to operate the Florida Center for Nursing at USF’s College of Nursing and $3 million for planning purposes of the new nursing/STEM building at the Sarasota-Manatee campus.

The university will also be receiving $6.3 million, funded by the Capital Improvement Trust Fund, for campus life facility projects across campuses.

To fund operations of the Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation at St. Pete’s College of Marine Science, USF will get $5.5 million.

The line item with the smallest approved request totalled $500,000 to research hyperbaric chamber therapy effectiveness for veterans with PTSD.

Although Law expressed her content with the approved funding in the email, a few requests were not approved by DeSantis.

A $75 million request to build the new Environmental and Oceanographic Science Research and Teaching facility was vetoed. The building would have been constructed at the St. Pete campus had it been approved.

The decision has disappointed some in the community, including State Rep. Ben Diamond. In a statement sent out Thursday, he said the governor’s decision is a major missed opportunity for the St. Pete area.

“This center would have made St. Petersburg the preeminent hub for marine science research and instruction, and would have been a critical economic driver for our city ­­– attracting federal research money, new jobs and new private sector partnerships and innovation,” he said in the statement.

“While the Governor’s veto is a significant loss for the University of South Florida and the Tampa Bay region, I am committed to doing everything in my power to ensure USF’s vision for this project becomes a reality.”

Another vetoed project Law mentioned in the email was the USF St. Petersburg YMCA Citizen Scholar Partnership, which would have cost $306,176 to fund.

Despite the presence of some controversial decisions, Law said the sheer number of approved finances will guide the university in the right direction.

“We are very grateful to Gov. DeSantis for his support of this historic budget for USF and our legislative leaders,” she said. “Fiscal year 2022-23 will be transformational for all of USF thanks to their efforts and generous support.”