This week, in one of my last stories here at The Florida Independent, I wrote about Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to veto $1.5 million from the state’s $70 billion budget during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The money would have gone to rape crisis centers around the state.
While the governor’s office insists they were not convinced of a need for the funding, local television stations have gotten their local rape crisis centers on the record, saying the funding was indeed necessary.
Here is a roundup:
1. A local Jacksonville station, WTEV, reported that its local rape centers were relying on the eliminated line item. The Women’s Center, in particular, “was counting on $57,000.”
“The Betty Griffin Center in St. Johns County and the Quigley House in Clay County were each expecting $17,000,” WTEV reported.
The station also reported that workers at the Center said “the money would have made a big difference [because] they help around 400 sexual assault victims a year and are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
2. WEAR, a local station covering Pensacola, Mobile and Fort Walton Beach, reported that the “controversial cuts will impact services … at the Lakeview Center in Escambia County [and] another facility in Milton.”
According to WEAR:
The organization says it desperately needed the funding because it’s been receiving less donation money.
“These are very vulnerable people and they need these services.”
Dennis Goodspeed is the VP of Behavioral Health at the Lakeview Center, which provides rape crisis services in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties.
“One of the things that we would look at is cuttin’ back on the education piece of it and maybe the counseling. It would be a little bit longer before you could get in to see somebody.”
3. WFTX-TV in the Naples/Fort Myers area reported that
Abuse Counseling and Treatment, Inc. in Fort Myers is the only one serving Lee, Hendry and Glades counties. Staff tells Fox 4, they can’t bear to think about where to start cutting now that even less state money will help support them.
The center also explained that “nearly 20-percent, or $74,000 of its $398,000 budget for rape services, comes from the state.”
4. Then, of course, there is the Palm Beach County rape crisis center. WPTV reports that the center lost some of its funding with Scott’s veto. The center’s director, Nicole Bishop, received an award this week for her service, the day after news spread that Scott cut her funding.
5. And lasty, WTSP in Tampa Bay reported this week that the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay was also losing money it badly needs. An activist said on television that she would be willing to personally show Scott why the centers need the additional funding.
Currently, all these centers rely on fine collections from convicted offenders, which has been decreasing as the state’s economy worsens.
Scott has said publicly that he stands by his vetoes because he believes the programs he eliminated “weren’t a good use of taxpayers’ money and did not serve a statewide need.” He has also said he “gave each project equal and fair consideration.”