Report from Florida TaxWatch
New rules increased transparency and accountability for member projects, resulting in fewer turkeys
The rules, however, did not limit member projects
The 2017 Florida TaxWatch Budget Turkey Watch Report, produced annually by the non-profit, non-partisan government watchdog, has identified 111 appropriation items worth $177.8 million in the 2017-18 Fiscal Year Budget that qualify as “Budget Turkeys.”
Furthermore, the independent scrutiny of the state budget finds that it contains more than 700 member projects worth more than $600 million. While all these member projects are not budget turkeys, the sheer size of these expenditures is noteworthy.
Budget Turkeys are items, usually local member projects, that are added to the appropriations bill in during the budget conference that circumvent established competitive review processes. The Budget Turkey label does not signify judgment of a project’s worthiness.
“The new rules adopted by the Legislature did improve the transparency and accountability of member projects, but it did not limit them,” said Florida TaxWatch Vice President for Research Kurt Wenner. “$600 million is a lot of money, especially when there are underfunded budget issues that can help all Floridians.”
During the 2017 Legislative Session, the House and Senate agreed to joint rules that prohibited a project from being added during the budget conference. Florida TaxWatch found that only a handful of projects made it into the budget during conference. While falling short of the goal of no conference additions, this is still a very positive improvement, as projects being added in conference have become epidemic and have made up the lion’s share of past Florida TaxWatch’s Turkey Watch Reports.
While there were few of these projects this year, there were many that bypassed competitive review and selection processes. Of the 111 Budget Turkeys, 79 are transportation projects that are not in the Department of Transportation Work Program. These projects are worth a combined $139.4 million.
The House also required each project to be requested in a bill dealing only with that request, and in order to be included in the House budget, the bill had to be approved by one committee. The House adhered to this rule, but all appropriations bills that came before committees passed, in most cases with no discussion or debate.
“We hope our report will help the Governor in his deliberations on the budget,” said Florida TaxWatch President & CEO Dominic Calabro. “If he does call the Legislature back into special session, appropriations from vetoed projects could be used to fund VISIT FLORIDA and Enterprise Florida, increase the size of the Business Rent Tax cut, or increase per-student funding public school funding.”
The Florida TaxWatch report also makes recommendations to further improve the budget process for member projects.
About Florida TaxWatch
As an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit taxpayer research institute & government watchdog for more than one third of a century, Florida TaxWatch works to improve the productivity and accountability of Florida government. Its research recommends productivity enhancements and explains the statewide impact of fiscal and economic policies and practices on citizens and businesses.
Florida TaxWatch is supported by voluntary, tax-deductible donations and private grants, and does not accept government funding. Donations provide a solid, lasting foundation that has enabled Florida TaxWatch to bring about a more effective, responsive government that is more accountable to, and productive for, the citizens it serves since 1979. For more information, please visit www.floridataxwatch.org.