Governor Rick Scott has until next Friday to sign off on the state’s 74 billion dollar budget. His staff has been sending letters to organizations set to receive state money, asking for justifications. And government watchdog says at least one hundred million of spending ought to be axed.
When the ceremonial handkerchief fell ending the legislative session, lawmakers took home the biggest budget in state history – 74 point five billion dollars. “We actually think the legislature showed some restraint with member projects,” says Kurt Werner, Taxwatch Budget Analyst
For more than 20 years, Florida Taxwatch has been combing through the hundreds of pages of detail and recommending which budget items are unusual, didn’t go through a process, or are just plain wasteful. “A 107 individual appropriations worth a 106 million dollars in tax payer money.”, says Rob Weisert, Taxwatch VP for Research.
On the list is 9 million for Embry Riddle, a private aeronautical university in Daytona Beach.14 million for a building at Gulf Coast State college in Panama City that ranked low on a priority list, and four million for a film project in Clearwater. “This is a hundred million dollars that could have gone to things like schools or healthcare. “, adds Weissert.
The 100 million plus could have been used to hire three thousand more teachers added three more days of back to school sales tax holidays. Almost completely fund the Governor’s manufacturing tax cut. Or the money could have been used to add thousands of kids to the early learning program.
Governor Rick Scott has the final say.
When lawmakers were still in session, Scott used the threat of vetoing budget items as leverage to get his priorities. “And we know that that horse trading has a role.”, says Werner.
But that could mean that Scott will have to let some money be spent that would’ve otherwise been vetoe
Senate President Don Gaetz responded with ascathing statement.
For Immediate Release
May 16, 2013
Statement from President Gaetz Regarding Florida TaxWatch
Tallahassee–Florida Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) today released the following statement regarding Florida TaxWatch releasing their 2013 Turkey Watch Report.
“The TaxWatch list is built on the unconstitutional perversion that if an appropriation isn’t recommended by unelected agency officials it shouldn’t be considered in conference by elected legislators. This is an arrogance of the elite who spend too much time in Tallahassee and Washington listening to the echoes of their own invented wisdom and thinking they’re hearing the voice of God.
“No agency put in its budget a $3,500 raise for Florida’s most effective teachers, yet that was funded. No agency testified before the Legislature asking for a raise for state employees who had been without one for six years, yet we passed it. No bureaucrat in the Department of Education asked for a career-technical pathway to a high school diploma or an online pathway to a university degree, but we funded them. Not a whisper of criticism from TaxWatch on any of these and a hundred other similar items. So, apparently, their indignation is not only ill-informed but selective.
“TaxWatch has dismissed as ‘turkeys’ mobile medical and dental units to bring health care to poor people in rural areas, documentation and education about the Holocaust, housing for disabled veterans, rehabilitation for severely wounded soldiers who want to return to duty, and replacement of 50 year old educational facilities that produce workforce for companies bringing jobs to Florida. In most cases, those who put together this list couldn’t find these projects on a map and haven’t put five minutes into finding out anything about them.
“If our founders had shared the slavish devotion of Taxwatch to unchallenged decisions and dictates of faraway bureaucrats, we’d all be drinking English tea and singing God Save the Queen. A good song. But not an American song. The Constitution obligates and empowers elected legislators, who come from communities and go home to communities, to write the state’s budget. If TaxWatch staffers want to test their budget theories in the public square, let them stand up in front of conference committees and testify in public. More than thirty public, open conference committee meetings were held during the recent legislative session. Every item in the state budget was proposed and adopted during those public meetings. Testimony was requested and welcomed at every meeting. Not once did any person from TaxWatch ask one question, offer one idea or say one word.
“It is little wonder that TaxWatch is irrelevant 364 days a year.”
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