Press Release: Florida TaxWatch
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The 2013 Florida TaxWatch Turkey Watch Report, released today, identifies $106.8 million in Budget Turkeys. This annual Report from the independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy research institute and government watchdog identifies appropriations that appear in the budget at the last minute, bypassing the legislatively-established competitive process and receiving little or no public review. This year's Report highlights 107 projects that deserve extra consideration for veto by the Governor.
"The Turkey Watch review is an important part of the watchdog role of Florida TaxWatch, and we take this responsibility very seriously," said TaxWatch Chairman John Zumwalt, III.
The "Turkey" label is not a judgment of a project's value; instead, the Turkey Watch review focuses on the budget process based on the concept that the expenditure of public funds should follow established budget processes and all appropriations must be scrutinized.
"While we believe that there are many good things about this year's budget and commend the Florida Legislature for their work, we have still identified projects that are turkeys by our long-standing review process," Dominic M. Calabro, President and Chief Executive Officer of Florida TaxWatch, said. "The public funds appropriated to this year's Turkeys could have been directed to priority programs in need. Although Turkeys make up a relatively small percentage of the budget, these projects would cost taxpayers more than $100 million of their hard-earned dollars. This is why Florida TaxWatch identifies these projects for the Governor's consideration for line-item vetoes."
Given that there was a budget surplus for the first time in several years, the Legislature showed some restraint when adding local member projects and other projects historically referred to as Turkeys. The 107 projects worth $106.8 million included in this year's budget is fewer than the 159 items that appeared in the 2012-2013 budget, in spite of the multi-billion dollar shortfall in that year.
"Member projects deserve more, not less, scrutiny," Kurt Wenner, Florida TaxWatch Vice President for Tax Research, said. "Turkeys, which generally benefit a less-than-statewide interest or specify a private entity for a grant or contract, did not receive the review, deliberation, and accountability that taxpayers deserve."
The report highlights three areas that historically contain a large number of local projects: Economic Development Projects, Water Projects, and School and Instructional Enhancements. TaxWatch recommends creating systematic review and selection processes in these three areas.
For the 2012-2013 fiscal year, Governor Scott vetoed 97 Turkeys, totaling $63.1 million in taxpayer savings. During the two years of Scott's administration, nearly 70 percent of Florida TaxWatch Turkeys have been vetoed by the Governor, resulting in $244 million in savings.
Florida Governors have vetoed more than $2 billion in projects that have appeared on the Florida TaxWatch Turkey Watch Report during the past 27 years.
"The nation's founders created a constitutional democratic republic that not only gives us the right, but the patriotic duty to constructively participate and work to improve it," added Calabro.
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Florida TaxWatch is a statewide, non-profit, non-partisan research institute that over its 32-year history has become widely recognized as the watchdog of citizens' hard-earned tax dollars. Its mission is to provide the citizens of Florida and public officials with high quality, independent research and education on government revenues, expenditures, taxation, public policies and programs and to increase the productivity and accountability of Florida state and local government. Its support comes from homeowners and retirees, small and large businesses, philanthropic foundations, and professional associations. On the web at www.FloridaTaxWatch.org.