Florida TaxWatch releases Turkey Watch Report, 48 hours after Rick Scott signs budget

turkeys tax watch

Although it lost most of its relevance when Rick Scott surprised the Tallahassee establishment and signed the 2015-2016 budget Tuesday, Florida TaxWatch on Thursday went ahead and released its annual Turkey Watch Report.

“While Gov.Rick Scott signed the new budget prior to the release of the 2015 Budget Turkey Watch Report, the report continues to promote increased transparency in the budget and calls for competitive processes to be established for the appropriation of member projects,” said Dominic Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. “The Budget Turkey Watch Report is not about recommending vetoes; rather, it is about promoting integrity and transparency in the use of taxpayer money. We are encouraged that the governor is also promoting these values, as he vetoed many projects for circumventing established funding processes, a central criterion in the Budget Turkey Watch process.”

The report says there were 189 separate projects totaling $167 million inserted into the budget “without sufficient public scrutiny, or circumventing established budget processes.”

The nonpartisan organization praised lawmakers such as Pinellas County Sen. Jack Latvala and House Budget Chairman Richard Corcoran for trying to increase transparency in budgeting. The report lauds Latvala for holding an “open mic” meeting to hear requests for public funds or member projects, while Corcoran asked House members to submit an application for their local projects.

But the report says that while such transparency is welcome and appreciated by taxpayers, much of that good work was undone during the conference committee, referring to more than $300 million added in increased spending on supplemental funding lists from both chambers, without explanation or debate, that went public shortly before midnight on Monday of last week, a move that received howls of criticism from editorial boards and others up and down the state.

Among the projects that TaxWatch recommended that the governor veto included the $2 million plus for the IMG Academy in Bradenton, $3 million for the Hillsborough Community College South Shore’s Ruskin campus, and a $600,000 request from Hillsborough County for BRT service, line items that Scott did veto.

You can review the whole list here.

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected].


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