2022 Budget Turkey Watch
An analysis of the transparency and accountability of the budget process
THIS IS FLORIDA TAXWATCH’S ANNUAL INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF FLORIDA’S FY2022-23 BUDGET. The report was started in 1983 and promotes oversight and integrity in the state’s budgeting process 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 deliberation and public scrutiny. The budget review identifies appropriations that circumvent transparency and accountability standards in public budgeting.
Budget Turkeys are items, usually local member projects, placed in individual line-items or accompanying proviso language that are added to the final appropriations bill without being fully scrutinized and subjected to the budget process. The Budget Turkey label does not signify judgment of a project’s worthiness. Instead, the review focuses on the Florida budget process, and the purpose of the Budget Turkey label is to ensure that all appropriations using public funds receive the deliberation, debate, and accountability they deserve. While a project may be worthwhile, Budget Turkeys tend to serve a limited (not statewide) area, are often not core functions of government, are more appropriately funded with local or private dollars, and can circumvent competitive bidding or selection as well as oversight and accountability.
The $112.1 billion budget passed by the Florida Legislature for FY2022-23 contains 166 appropriations items worth $281.0 million qualifying as Budget Turkeys. These are only a portion of the record-setting more than 1,200 member projects in the new budget worth $2.8 billion. In addition, the Legislature created a new program to allow members to request at least $80 million in additional local projects from the federal State Fiscal Recovery Fund.
There was so much money available this year and so many member projects, Florida TaxWatch expected a very long turkey list. But member projects are not always turkeys. The use of abundant general revenue and federal fiscal recovery funds in two areas ultimately kept hundreds of millions of dollars in projects that normally would have earned the Budget Turkey label off this year’s list (see Local Transportation Projects and College and University Construction Projects). In addition, the Legislature did not add any member projects to the budget during conference. Conference additions used to make up a significant portion of our turkey list. Some projects were removed during conference only to be added back on the Supplemental Appropriations lists. These “sprinkle lists” are still problematic (see Recommendations).
Beyond Budget Turkeys, taxpayers should be wary of line-items in the budget that annually contain numerous earmarked local projects. These line-items have been getting bigger and, over the past several years, Florida TaxWatch has not put these projects on the Budget Turkey list because they do not violate our criteria. But if the Legislature insists on funding such projects, we have instead called for the Legislature to create statutory competitive selection processes for these projects (see Recommendations). The Legislature has not heeded that call and this year these line-items, like many things in the new budget, grew remarkably.
Therefore, in addition to our Budget Turkeys, this report highlights 11 areas with projects totaling $2.0 billion that deserve especially close scrutiny by the Governor as he deliberates using his line-item veto power to strike appropriations from the budget.