Florida TaxWatch released its annual Budget Turkey Watch Report for the 2019 legislative session and the government watchdog group reports it has found 109 turkeys totalling $133 million in the $91.1 billion budget passed by the Florida Legislature for FY2019-20.
Budget Turkeys are frequently local member projects, placed in the final appropriations bill without undergoing the budget typical committee process. The designation does not judge the merit of a budget item, but rather that it didn’t go through the proper review process.
“Since 1983, Florida TaxWatch has used the Budget Turkey Watch Report to encourage a more thoughtful and thorough budget process,” said Florida TaxWatchPresident and CEO Dominic Calabro. “While the new rules have limited the number of turkeys, the number of member projects and items added in conference passed this year is a cause for concern. We are looking forward to working with Governor DeSantis and House and Senate leadership to implement TaxWatch recommendations so that the legislature can address constituent needs with fairness, transparency, accountability, and maximum regional and statewide beneficial impact.”
The appropriations project rules adopted two years ago have lowered the number of Budget Turkeys. But in 2019, there were several instances of items being added in conference, including member projects. Florida TaxWatch says it hopes its not a sign that lawmakers are returning to the old way of doing business.
“The Budget Turkey Watch Report is one of the most unique and impactful publications Florida TaxWatch releases,” said former Florida Senator Pat Neal, Chairman of Florida TaxWatch. “No other state has such a resource, and that alone makes this something special to be a part of. This report shows TaxWatch’s true dedication to holding the government accountable and keeping Florida’s taxpayers informed.”
The Budget Turkey Watch Report also keeps tabs on the use of supplemental appropriations lists during this year’s budget process. Referred to as “sprinkle lists,” are approved at the last minute with little scrutiny and input. This year’s “sprinkle lists” were likely record in size. The Senate list contained 127 items worth $153.5 million, and the House list consisted of 110 items worth $136.2 million.
TaxWatch says that means nearly $290 million in hard-earned taxpayer dollars were appropriated without proper review, after all the various budget areas had been “closed-out.”
“This year’s budget contains nearly 600 member projects, bringing the three-year total to 1,800 projects worth $1.7 billion,” said Florida TaxWatch Vice President of Research Kurt Wenner. “While recent changes to the legislative budget process have been helpful, we hope that the Budget Turkey Watch Report will continue to show Florida’s elected leaders the need for additional transparency and oversight as they craft the budget.”
Click here for the 2019 Budget Turkey Watch Report.