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Florida TaxWatch Releases 2019 Budget Turkey Watch Report

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Florida TaxWatch (FTW) released the Budget Turkey Watch Report, its annual independent review of the state’s FY2019-20 budget. The report promotes additional oversight and integrity in Florida’s budgeting process and is based on the principle that because money appropriated by the Legislature belongs to the taxpayers of Florida, the process must be transparent and accountable, and every appropriation should receive proper deliberation and public debate. 

Budget Turkeys are often local member projects, placed in the final appropriations bill without being scrutinized and subjected to the budget committee process, or that circumvented existing grant and other legislatively established selection processes. 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. 

The $91.1 billion budget passed by the Florida Legislature for FY2019-20 contains 109 appropriations qualifying as Budget Turkeys worth $133 million. The appropriations project rules adopted two years ago have reduced the number of Budget Turkeys. However, this session, there were several instances of items being added in conference, including member projects. Florida TaxWatch hopes this is an aberration and not a sign of returning to old ways of budgeting. The Budget Turkey Watch Report also highlights the particularly disconcerting issue of the increased use of supplemental appropriations lists during this year’s budget process. These lists, which are referred to as “sprinkle lists,” are approved at the last minute with little or no legislative scrutiny or public 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. This means nearly $290 million in hard-earned taxpayer dollars were appropriated without proper review, after all the various budget areas had been “closed-out.” 

“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.” 

"Since 1983, Florida TaxWatch has used the Budget Turkey Watch Report to encourage a more thoughtful and thorough budget process," said Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic M. 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.” 

“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.” 

Please click here for the 2019 Budget Turkey Watch Report and recommendations for Florida's budget process. 

 

About Florida TaxWatch 

As an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit government watchdog & taxpayer research institute for forty years, the trusted eyes and ears of Florida taxpayers, 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 http://www.floridataxwatch.org. 

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