With every new budget for each fiscal year comes another annual legislative tradition: Florida TaxWatch's yearly "Turkey" report, which identifies the projects which squeaked into the state budget -- and passed -- at the last minute.
These turkeys are projects which circumvent the established review and selection processes or are projects which have completed the established process which are funded ahead of much higher priority projects.
Turkeys also appear when appropriations are thrown into conference committee meetings but didn't appear in House or Senate budgets.
This year's report broke with the normal scheduled release, which usually happens before the governor signs the state budget. The list aims to guide the governor and his staff to best deal with the turkeys, but Scott signed the state budget fairly quickly, penning it into law Tuesday morning.
Yet despite Scott's swift signature of the budget, Florida TaxWatch commended the governor for vetoing many of the last-minute turkeys, an action the group says promotes integrity and transparency with state money.
"We are encouraged that the governor is also promoting these values, as he vetoed many projects for circumventing established funding processes, a central criterion in the Budget Turkey Watch process," said Dominic Calabro, president of Florida TaxWatch.
The TaxWatch Turkey Watch Report found that 189 projects worth $167 million were put into the budget "without sufficient public scrutiny" or circumvented the established budget processes entirely.
"We commend the Florida Legislature for creating a balanced budget; however, it's our responsibility to show taxpayers [which turkeys] circumvented the process," said Kurt Wenner, vice president of Florida TaxWatch, in a conference call with reporters.
The 2015 budget turkeys make up less than one-quarter of 1 percent of this year's hefty budget of nearly $79 billion.
Wenner said the report is an important tool for taxpayers to know which projects slipped through the cracks.
"When projects are added for the first time in the final hour of the budget process with no public debate or review, the taxpayers lose," he said.
The biggest turkey found by Florida TaxWatch was the Standard Student Attire Incentive program, but other budget turkeys included funding for the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and a $7 million proposal to purchase replacement radios for state law enforcement agencies.
The group praised some state lawmakers, like Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes and Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, for their commitment to transparency in the budget creation process.
"Florida TaxWatch is encouraged that the Legislature has identified many of our longstanding and mutual concerns regarding appropriate budget integrity processes, and it is our hope that lawmakers will continue implementing additional budget integrity protections in coming years," according to the report.