Governor Rick Scott signed off on an $88.7 billion budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year quicker than many expected. But, that hasn’t prevented the nonprofit organization TaxWatch from releasing their annual Budget Turkey Watch Report. The group says it sees some troubling trends.
TaxWatch’s recent report on Governor Rick Scott’s budget plan showed a decrease in the number of approved projects that skipped committee meetings, or in their words, turkeys.
TaxWatch Vice President of Research Kurt Wenner says this is due to a law passed last year.
“Due to the appropriation rule implemented last year, there were no new projects added to the budget during conference. This has historically made up a large part of budget turkeys. This year, almost all of the turkeys were flagged because they circumvented established selection processes,” Wenner says.
But, according to Wenner, all this has done is divert these turkeys to committees loosely related to the projects, causing vetted and approved projects to be neglected.
“There were 489 projects that were approved and ranked by the department of state, the cultural museum general program support grant. These requests total $41.6 million. The legislature provided $2.6 million to be spread out among all these almost 500 projects. The approved recipients will receive about 6% of what they requested. With awards ranging from $369 to $9,000,” Wenner says.
This strategy has created a trend when it comes to filing bills. In 2018, House members filed 13-hundred bills, which requested $2.3 billion in appropriations. The Senate requested about 14-hundred projects that totaled $2.7 billion.
This kind of funding has caused analysts to claim that the state’s general revenue spending is surpassing available revenue.
The state’s annual Long Range Economic Outlook even projects budget shortfalls of $1.1 billion and $1.6 billion in the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 fiscal years.
TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro says there must be a philosophical change to combat Florida’s deficit.
“Florida is in a great position in many many respects. We just want to make sure it continues that way. And to do so, we gotta make sure our recurring expenditures get more closely aligned with our recurring revenues. And to do that we probably have to curtail some of the spending,” Calabro says.
The group has offered a list of recommendations to cut back on project spending. They include proper member project legislation and a competitive selection process.