Senate unveils new, more thourough budget review process

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Senate leaders are asking their budget-writers to undertake an “intensive budget review” that would include more carefully weighing large contracts and asking members who propose local projects to fund them by getting rid of other initiatives, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

The process, outlined by Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron expounds some on statements that Senate President Don Gaetz made after the organizational session earlier this month.

Gaetz, for example, had already said the state might need to take another look at some of its contracts. And he had suggested that a new local project process would be created to try to deal with funding for those proposals, which used to be handled through the Community Budget Issue Request.

That process was eliminated largely because of a tough budget environment in recent years.

But Gaetz said the state needed to add transparency to local project funding, given that many of the initiatives were inserted into the budget anyway.

Negron, R-Stuart, told a meeting of his subcommittee chairs that he instead wanted them to press members to find the funding for any new local projects by getting rid of some existing projects, particularly among local programs that might be funded year after year without careful scrutiny.

That would also help the state preserve its relatively thin margin for error in revenue forecasts for the coming budget year, which begins July 1.

“Instead of just having to rely on our new revenues … they can look at, well, maybe there’s something that was spent not just even in your area of the budget, in another area of the budget, that we were doing 15 years ago that was a priority but today, it’s not a good fit anymore.”

Negron told reporters after the meeting that much of the new process would take place in subcommittee meetings, making it more transparent. But he indicated that the paperwork associated with the old CBIRs would not be part of the new system.

And he said the new system would also be used to screen local projects folded in Gov. Rick Scott’s budget request.

House Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel suggested he thought the House’s current review of the spending plan was strong enough.

“We do a detailed analysis of the budget every year,” he said.

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.