Vetoes, Budget Turkeys, And Tax Cuts - What The Newly-Signed State Budget Comes With

Jun 26, 2015

"Budget Turkeys" designated by The Florida TaxWatch are bills for special projects that were not heavily presented for public debate, or did not follow legislative protocol.
Credit Olin Gilbert via Flikr / WFSU News

On Tuesday Governor Rick Scott used the power of a pen to approve the 2015-2016 state budget of $78.2 billion, just as he used that same power to veto more than $461 million in special projects. Some lawmakers are upset over the amount of vetoed bills.

After his signature gave the state budget approval, Governor Rick Scott chose to emphasize not his vetoes, but, rather, his tax cuts and education funding in the “Keep Florida Working” budget for the next fiscal year. He says he had a method for vetoing what he did.

“I went through the budget saying, what’s - look at every project - saying, ‘What’s a statewide priority? Can I get a good return on investment? Is it gone through a statewide process?’” Scott said.

The tax cuts in this year’s budget come out to more than $427 million, which comes mostly from a school supplies tax holiday, along with cuts in college textbooks, cell phone and cable TV bill tariffs.

Florida TaxWatch recently released its report on the 2015 Budget Turkeys, or projects that either did not receive much public debate, or did not follow the budget processes.

Kurt Wenner, the vice president of research at Florida TaxWatch, led the report. He said, although not every item vetoed matches with the Turkey Watch List, the organization was pleased with Scott’s promotion of following correct government processes, as well as his review of the projects.  

“Some of these projects are undoubtedly good projects and if the governor gives them the kind of review that they need to get and he decides along with the legislature that it’s something that should be funded that’s up to him, and we don’t really have an issue with that,” Wenner said.

Speaker of the Florida House, Steve Crisafulli thanked Scott in a statement on Friday for signing the budget. He stated, “This is a good budget that responsibly meets the needs of Florida families.” And it, “fully complies with Amendment 1.”

Yet other lawmakers aren’t as convinced the vetoed projects helped balance the budget. Florida State University was one of many state universities that saw its projects get cut, and the Tallahassee City Commission saw some of its projects get the ax as well. The Mayor of Tallahassee, Andrew Gillum, was displeased with how Scott justified some of the vetoes.  

“The logic that the governor presented was not consistent across the board. And, you know, again, the truth is, is that we know they’ll be disagreements in that process,” Gillum said. “It is not however, appropriate to take their payback. That impacts and desperately impacts Florida’s cities.”

The amount of money Scott vetoed for special projects this year, is more than any amount by any governor since 2000. This year’s total budget is also larger than any budget passed in the last 15 years. The area of the budget to receive the most vetoes, was Natural Resources/Environment/Growth Management/and Transportation, with more than $147 million in projects cut.