“What else could a Turkey buy?” and related observations on opportunity cost

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“What else could a turkey buy?”  If you are talking whole one for Thanksgiving, you could get 35 cans of cranberry sauce instead; or maybe even four pies.  But if you’re talking Florida’s state budget and the annual Florida TaxWatch Turkey Watch list, them turkeys can buy a lot more.

In the just-released report, the nonprofit watchdog presents an opportunity cost approach, placing in context the $120 million in Turkeys it identified within the 2014 budget.

According to a previous TaxWatch report, “one of the best arguments for stopping Turkeys is the many essential state services to which the funds spent on budget Turkeys could otherwise have been appropriated.”

For example, TaxWatch cites that with further legislative action these funds could have increased the number of students receiving Tax Credit Scholarships, provided a one percent reduction in the Community Services Tax or a reduction of one-third of one percent in the Corporate Income Tax rate.

I’m reminded of the Shel Silverstein poem, “Smart“, in which a son is given a dollar and trades it “up” for five pennies — because five is more than one.  Because without accounting for project “merit” (which TaxWatch purposefully does not do) or expected returns on project investments, there really is no apple-to-apple (or if you will, turkey-to-turkey) comparisons that can be easily made.

Nevertheless there are two TaxWatch trades that seem particularly compelling:

First, it crunches the numbers to find that the $120 million spent on Turkeys could have gone to reducing the Home and Community Based Services Waitlist, providing services for 4,107 more individuals with developmental disabilities who are currently on a Waiver Waitlist through the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

Or, that $120 million could have provided a $1,048 raise for each of the state’s 114,481 state employees.

Or, hey, with that $120 million, the Legislature could instead serve a full-course Turkey dinner to … oh, just … exactly half the state. Just saying.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.