Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) is commemorating Sexual Assault Awareness Month by vetoing a budget line item of $1.5 million passed by the legislature to fund 30 rape crisis centers around the state.
Scott spokesman Lane Wright told The Huffington Post that the governor vetoed the item because funding already exists for statewide sexual violence programs. As evidence, Wright pointed towards the state’s $6.5 million budget for rape prevention and sexual assault services and an additional $29 million allocated for domestic violence programs.
But according to the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, much of the available funding that currently exists is spent on education and prevention, and not for the funding of crisis centers and the victims they serve. The group’s Executive Director Jennifer Dritt disputed Governor Scott’s claim that he was never given specific reasons why the additional funding was required:
We gave them information about the number of new survivors we have and we showed them that these rape crisis centers have waiting lists. Survivors are having to wait weeks, sometimes six weeks, in some programs three months to be seen. We included quotes from the programs about the waiting lists and what services they weren’t able to offer because of a lack of money. There is clearly an unmet need.
Florida’s rape crisis centers are tied to a trust fund that is fed into by fines levied against perpetrators of sexual assault. But when the fund was created by the legislature in 2003, lawmakers determined that it would not generate significant revenues for several years, instead requiring offsets by state funding. Scott’s decision to veto the funding could result in cuts of as much as $100,000 at some of the crisis centers, Dritt says.