Florida TaxWatch to announce today its list of budget turkeys

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Once again, it is time for the annual $77.1 billion Florida budget “turkey hunt.”

Every year, the non-partisan government watchdog group Florida TaxWatch publishes its “Budget Turkey List,” where it scrutinizes line-item projects in the new state budget, and then pass its recommendations to the governor of what to veto.

TaxWatch will announce the 2014 Florida Budget Turkey Report at 10:30 a.m. in Tallahassee. They will release the report electronically 30 minutes after the news conference.

A label of “Budget Turkey” do not necessarily pass judgment of the project’s worthiness. They are statements about the process lawmakers used to construct the state’s spending plan, which this year is a record $77.1 billion.

Often, turkeys make the list because they bypassed the Legislature’s standards for efficiency and transparency.

In 2013, the organization found $107 million in projects that “appear in the budget at the last minute, bypassing the legislatively-established competitive process and receiving little or no public review.”

The projects ran the extent of state spending, from college improvements and programs for the disabled to renovations of historic buildings and museums. Miami-Dade topped the turkey list with 18, more than any other county.

TaxWatch turkey reports are rarely ignored.

For the 2012-2013 fiscal year, Scott vetoed 97 of the listed Turkeys, totaling $63.1 million in taxpayer savings. During the first two years of Scott’s administration, the governor vetoed 70 percent of TaxWatch Turkeys resulting in $244 million in savings.

In the past 27 years, Florida governors vetoed more than $2 billion in projects that have appeared on the TaxWatch report.

“Member projects deserve more, not less, scrutiny,” Kurt Wenner, Florida TaxWatch Vice President for Tax Research, said after the release of the 2013 report. “Turkeys, which generally benefit a less-than-statewide interest or specify a private entity for a grant or contract, did not receive review, deliberation, and accountability that taxpayers deserve.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.