Florida TaxWatch Offers its Annual Look at Budget Turkeys

On Thursday, Florida TaxWatch (FTW) released its annual turkey list, signaling out parts of the budget.

FTW has been releasing the report since 1986 and it turned its attention to this year’s budget, noting that member projects continue to hinder it.

“The $93.2 billion budget passed by the Florida Legislature for FY2020-21 contains 180 appropriations items qualifying as Budget Turkeys worth $136.3 million. While, the appropriations project rules adopted four years ago have reduced the number of Budget Turkeys, they have not limited member projects. This year’s budget contains a record 829 member projects in the budget worth more than $500 million. In addition to recommending a veto of Budget Turkeys, FTW also recommends the governor apply a strict standard to all member projects and veto those which do not provide a significant positive return for taxpayers. The report also offers recommendations to stem the tide of member projects,” FTW noted.

“The Budget Turkey label does not signify judgment of a project’s worthiness. Instead, the review focuses solely on the integrity, accountability, and transparency of the legislatively established budget process. The goal of which is to ensure that all appropriations of hard-earned taxpayer money achieves its intended public benefit. Since 1986, both Republican and Democratic governors have vetoed more than $3 billion in projects identified by FTW as Budget Turkeys,” FTW added.

Former state Sen. Pat Neal, the chairman of Florida TaxWatch, weighed in on the report on Thursday.

“During these unprecedented times, Florida TaxWatch’s Budget Turkey Watch Report serves as an invaluable resource for Florida’s leaders to guide our state forward and maintain the fiscal accountability our families and taxpayers rightly deserve,” Neal said. “As COVID-19 continues to make a serious impact on Florida’s economy, the analysis provided by this report is a strong testament to Florida TaxWatch’s dedication and well-established role as a tireless watchdog and guide dog for the Sunshine State.”

“Since our founding in 1979, Florida TaxWatch has proudly served as our state’s trusted government watchdog and fiscal policy leader, providing Florida’s leaders thoughtful recommendations to secure enduring fiscal accountability and strength for the Sunshine State even through its darkest days. Throughout Florida’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, TaxWatch has remained dedicated to this role and provided ongoing analysis of COVID’s economic impacts and our government’s response to this crisis. We continue that important work today with the release of the 2020 Budget Turkey Watch Report. We will never stop fighting for the taxpayers of Florida and look forward to working with Governor DeSantis and our state leaders to implement these measures, increase accountability for every tax dollar spent, and ensure the greatest possible return on investment for Florida families,” said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of FTW.

FTW also pointed to the “increasing use of supplemental appropriations lists” during the budget process.

“These lists, which are referred to as ‘sprinkle lists,’ surface and are approved at the last minute with no discussion. As they were in 2019, this year’s ‘sprinkle lists’ were record in the number of items they contained. The Senate list contained 170 items worth $129.5 million. The House funded 134 items worth $137.4 million. This means $267 million in hard-earned taxpayer dollars were spent as almost an afterthought, after all the various budget areas had been ‘closed-out,’” FTW noted. “In addition, the appropriations project rules had nearly eliminated the practice of adding member projects to the budget during the conference process. However, this session there were 12 items added in conference, the most since the rules were adopted. A number of projects that were removed from the budget during conference, were added back through the sprinkle lists. FTW sincerely hopes this is not a sign of returning to old ways of budgeting.”

Florida TaxWatch Vice President of Research Kurt Wenner offered his take on member projects included in the budget.

“In 2020, Florida’s budget process was again subject to a record number of member projects with 829 included in the final General Appropriations Act and saw ‘sprinkle lists’ hit new highs in the number of items they contained at 304. Reigning in this spending is a critical issue every year and now, as Florida faces an uncertain economic landscape due to the impacts of COVID-19, the need for strict scrutiny by Governor DeSantis is even more important. The recommendations put forward in Florida TaxWatch’s 2020 Budget Turkey Watch Report will help ensure Florida is better positioned for FY2020-21,” Wenner said.

 

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