Scott Line-Item Vetoes Parallel TaxWatch 'Turkeys'
Around the State
Although $305 million of the cuts were gained through phantom savings -- Scott dropped Florida Forever funding that was to come from land sales that haven't yet happened -- another large chunk can be attributed to Florida TaxWatch.
The nonpartisan group recommended nearly $203 million in possible savings earlier this week, noting that many of the line items, dubbed "turkeys" by TaxWatch and akin to pork spending at the federal level, were added in last-minute budget conferences or were not requested by the particular government agency. Scott took them up on $181 million of those cuts (89 percent), and 87 of the 105 line items (83 percent) they suggested.
"I applaud the governor for vetoing the vast majority of Florida TaxWatch identified turkeys and protecting the integrity of the budget process," said Calabro.
Lawmakers, who felt strained during much of the budget process as they grappled with a $3.8 billion shortfall and stayed firm on preventing tax increases, were not impressed with TaxWatch's "turkey" list. Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, issued a press release Tuesday after the list was unveiled calling it a "fading media gimmick."
Much of the money Scott vetoed comes from Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) dollars that were slated for construction projects for state universities and colleges.
While some lawmakers backed Scott's decisions, others who supported the budget were not pleased to see some of their preferred projects fall victim to the governor's veto pen.
Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, saw his $3.4 million project to revitalize the Pine Hills neighborhood in his district get axed, and $1 million for redevelopment projects in Paramour and Etonville in Central Florida also hit the cutting room floor.
"That's a job-generating project," Siplin said of the Pine Hills project. Siplin was one of three Democrats in the Senate to vote for the budget.
According to Siplin, getting the projects into the budget was just part of his duty as a legislator, representing his constituents.
"I got elected to go and do things for all of the state, of course, but also for my district," Siplin said.
The cuts did not spare the Republican leadership in the Legislature, but it remains to be seen how the veto-proof majorities in both chambers will handle the cuts.
Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, had a $12 million facility for homeless veterans in his Brevard County district get trimmed, but said he wants to review the line items carefully before making any decisions. House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, on the other hand, harshly criticized Scott for attempting to push the savings into pre-K through 12 education funding after the Legislature funded education to a greater extent than Scott originally preferred in his initial budget proposal. Cannon also missed out on his coveted $400,000 study of the court system that was part of his plan to split the Florida Supreme Court into criminal and civil divisions.
Calabro said he was aware of the tough task faced by lawmakers.
"This was a difficult year for our leaders and many difficult decisions were made. The 2011 Florida Legislature was one of the most productive and reforming legislatures in Florida history. The governor and Legislature implemented many of Florida TaxWatch's cost savings recommendations and saved the taxpayers $1 billion to $2 billion this year and on an annual basis billions more. Both the executive and legislative branches of government should be proud of the work they accomplished this year for Floridians," Calabro said.
Thursday's budget-signing in The Villages was arranged and paid for by the Republican Party of Florida. RPOF Chairman Dave Bitner delivered a welcoming address to the largely friendly crowd of about 200.
Reach Gray Rohrer at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (850) 727-0859 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.