Florida Gov. DeSantis Vetoes $32 M. in Arts and Culture Grants from 2025 Budget

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis last week vetoed over $32 million in arts and culture grants from next year’s budget, a move that could cripple institutions across Tampa Bay and greater Florida, the Tampa Bay Times reported Thursday.

The vetoes are part of nearly $1 billion in line-item cuts that Desantis made before signing a $116.5 billion spending plan.

At a press conference in Tampa during which he signed the budget, DeSantis did not specifically explain why he slashed the state’s arts and culture grant programs. He did, however, mention a general desire to reduce spending and avoid funding items he deemed “inappropriate for state tax dollars.”

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Michael Tomor, director of the Tampa Museum of Art, told the Times that the vetoes were a sign of diminishing faith in Florida’s arts and culture institutions and said it was “a huge disappointment and a quandary.” The museum expected $570,500 (including $500,000 for expansion and $70,500 for education programs). It will now receive nothing.

Margaret Murray, the chief executive of the Tampa-based arts non-profit Creative Pinellas, told the Times that small organizations, such as local music and theater groups, youth programs, and art festivals, will struggle the most to recover.

“To completely decimate the cultural funding … I’ve never experienced that in my lifetime as an arts professional in Pinellas County, or anywhere,” she said.

Among those who will immediately feel financial pressure are the FreeFall Theater, a nonprofit theater company in St. Petersburg which expected $105,000 from the state, and ZooTampa at Lowery Park, which planned to use its $500,000 share of state grants for a manatee rescue habitat that is part of a $125 million expansion. Both organizations said that, while they do get grants and donations from other sources, the budget cuts mean they will have to find other streams of revenue to fund their projects.

Some Democrats, including Florida state representative Anna Eskamani, criticized the vetoes. Eskamani said in a statement that “cutting this funding undermines the economic vitality of our state and disregards the significant contributions of our cultural institutions.”

The veto was also criticized by leaders from the arts and advocacy organization the Florida Cultural Alliance, who called the move “unprecedented in the history of [Florida’s] grants program.

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