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Politics

Florida TaxWatch Releases Annual 'Turkey' Report

June 25, 2015 - 2:30pm

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. 

 
 
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen

Comments

The number 1 turkey, every year, is that Lauren's kids! A total farce! It's nothing more than an advertising campaign for a non profit company to make Mr. Book feel better about neglecting his child. Why should the taxpayers of this state continue to fund the 4 million dollar budget every year? There is not one victims service in their agenda. Just advertising.

I thank you for bringing this to our attention. I sincerely hope this will be investigated, and repealed if necessary.

If any appropriation didn't go through the process that others did, it deserves to be vetoed. There may be some that one would call political payback, but if they didn't go through process, it's a happy coincidence for those who opposed them. For those that supported them, follow the rules next time. Scott was right, and I don't agree with him on many issues.

I do not think you actually paid attention to the numbers, just cheering for your hero? Tax Watch found $167 million in turkeys. Scott line item vetoed $400 million plus. Therefore, a lot of what he vetoed went through the "Process". How is that justified? It's not. It was partisan political revenge, at the expense of Floridians!

There is a 1st time for just about everything. 1st time Scott line item vetoed more than Florida Tax Watch recommended. On the other hand, anybody with a few brain cells and a computer realizes Scott vetoed a lot of items for pure political payback. Not because they had no merit or not needed. Just to get back at those Lawmakers he is upset with. Therefore the people of Florida will suffer so Scott can play political games. Another example of Scott's disdain for the people of Florida and our laws and Constitution.

Couldn't have said it any better. Will add, I think Scott is an old time thug.

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