The What, Why, and How of the Florida TaxWatch Budget Turkey Watch Report
Budget Turkeys are appropriations, usually local member projects, placed in individual line-items or accompanying proviso language that are included in the final appropriations bill without being fully scrutinized or that bypass established budget processes. The Budget Turkey label does not signify judgment of a project’s merit, value, or need. While a project may be worthwhile, Budget Turkeys tend to serve a limited (not statewide) area, are often not core functions of state government, are more appropriately funded with local or private dollars, or circumvent competitive bidding or selection as well as oversight and accountability.
The state shares approximately $5 billion of state revenue sources directly with local governments and school districts, and billions of dollars more are sent down to the local level through the state budget. Local funding with state dollars has its place and every Florida state budget provides significant local funding. In fact, “Aid to Local Governments” is the second largest expenditure category in the budget, trailing only Medicaid. This can be part of a statewide system for which it is generally accepted that the state has responsibility, such as transportation or school construction. There are also state programs to fund projects that are perhaps more local in nature, such as parks, public libraries, fairs, and cultural programs. Adding more local spending through budget earmarks is done at the expense of statewide priorities, core functions, and programs. This is why this spending must receive at least the same level, if not a higher level, of deliberation, transparency, and accountability. This is why the Florida TaxWatch Budget Turkey Watch exists.