a group of women standing next to each other
Disney princesses take to the stage for ‘Disenchanted’ at Marathon Community Theatre in March. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

Several organizations in the Florida Keys will need to seek funds from another source following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ vetoes of almost a billion dollars from the state Legislature’s 2024-25 spending plan on June 12. 

DeSantis signed a $116 billion budget and axed a long list of projects, ranging from education and homeless initiatives to sewer improvement projects and new facilities throughout Florida. 

The arts community was especially shocked to see $26 million in grants cut from the budget. 

Elizabeth Young, executive director for the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, said the funds go toward salaries, new exhibit programming and other operating expenses for local galleries and theaters. The nearly $26 million in slashed funds, from which the Florida Keys Council of the Arts was hoping to receive around $22,000, represented a tiny piece of the total budget. 

Young said the veto has upset more than 650 cultural organizations throughout the state seeking some grant support. 

“It’s hard to quantify the loss of culture and arts in the community,” Young said. “It does speak to people having jobs in the state. For us, it’s jobs.”

State spending cuts hit 13 local galleries and theaters to the tune of more than $1 million. Those affected included Red Barn Actor’s Studio, Key West Literary Seminar, the Studios of Key West, Bahama Village Music Program and Marathon Community Theater, to name a few.

“Like most nonprofits, the Studios (of Key West) already operates with a lean budget, and a hit like this is a significant one for us all — especially coming with so little notice,” wrote Jed Dodds, executive director, to friends of the Studios. 

A special meeting among organizations and individuals in the arts and theater communities is set for Monday, June 24 at 10 a.m. via Zoom. The meeting will be hosted by the Florida Cultural Alliance, a nonprofit created in 1985 to develop a statewide, nonpartisan advocacy network among the arts and culture groups and policymakers at the local, state and federal levels.

“Once the governor vetoes it, it’s vetoed. We can’t change it,” Young said. “We’ll be advocating to other foundations and funders and philanthropists.”

In his veto message, DeSantis said the $949.6 million in cuts from the budget will result in a budget reserve of more than $17 billion. 

“Florida believes we must be responsible with hard-earned tax dollars of our citizens, and therefore operates with no state income tax, a budget surplus and less government spending than last year,” DeSantis stated. 

The governor also vetoed $1.5 million for repairs to the San Carlos Institute in Key West, $300,000 for a marine emergency response vessel for Islamorada, $250,000 for the Good Health Clinic’s building project and $150,000 for the Monroe Association of ReMARCable Citizens for supported employment. 

State Rep. Jim Mooney said he was a bit surprised by the governor’s veto of the marine vessel for Islamorada Fire Rescue. The appropriation request was made by fellow state Rep. Lauren Melo, of Naples, to mitigate tragedies on the Florida Keys waters. 

As for San Carlos Institute, Mooney said litigation issues over the building’s ownership — the Cuban government claims it’s theirs — may have deterred the governor.

“I’m not sure the governor was in a position to throw a million at the project, although they (San Carlos Institute) needed it,” he said.

Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy is one of the many who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures in Western New York. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 5-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club. When he's not working, he's busy chasing his son, Lucas, around the house and enjoying time with family.