What's next for STEM nursing facility planned for USF Sarasota-Manatee after $20M veto?
Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed more than $34 million for Sarasota County projects and plans in the state budget; $20 million of that was meant for a new STEM nursing facility at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the 2023-24 state budget Thursday, but not before his veto pen nixed $510 million in proposed funding.
Over $34 million was sliced from the budget for projects in Sarasota County that includes $20 million for a planned academic STEM nursing Facility on the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus.
Officials said the facility would double the size of the nursing program, offer new health care-related majors, and address space demands in classrooms, labs and research facilities. It would also act as a research hub for the chemistry and biology fields.
Architects and a general contractor for the proposed $61.7 million, 75,000-square-foot building were chosen in April.
The campus raised over $500,000 for the structure at a Brunch of the Bay event last year. Sarasota-Manatee campus Regional Chancellor Karen A. Holbrook told attendees the facility would not only help with the area’s nursing shortage, but also support careers in fields like artificial intelligence and data analytics.
Holbrook said in a statement following the veto that the university will use $5 million in funding from last year and continue to raise support and plan for the new facility.
"This is only a temporary setback in our continued campaign to grow and transform our campus for its students, faculty members and staff, and for the entire community," she added.
It would be the third major building for the campus, located in Sarasota.
USF was recently invited into the Association of American Universities, a collection of 71 top research universities in North America.
Even though funding for the new facility was slashed, USF President Rhea Law said in a statement that the budget represents "the largest operational funding increase in (the) university's history."
A recurring $63.3 million was approved for the university. The funds will support USF's three campuses and USF Health.
Law added that although the STEM-nursing project was vetoed in the upcoming fiscal year, $3 million was approved last year.
"While we respect the governor’s decision, we remain committed to this important project," she said, "and will work with the governor and the Legislature to explore other avenues of funding to ensure this important facility for our students and faculty is completed as soon as possible."
Another cut from the governor was $2.9 million for the university's Department of Mental Health Law and Policy to research opioid use and overdoses to improve responses and treatments.
DeSantis approved $24 million in funding for a new Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences Research and Teaching facility on the USF St. Petersburg campus for marine science; proposed funding for the center last year was axed.
Also, $14 million was approved for clinical trials of hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries for veterans and active-duty service members.
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