Steve Bousquet reports: In a bleak budget with more cuts to human services programs, state lawmakers are following a time-honored practice: stashing away tens of millions of dollars in hometown spending to appease constituents in an election year.
Many of the budget earmarks — nicknamed “turkeys” by some in Tallahassee — surfaced for the first time in the past few days and some didn’t come up until almost midnight Monday in the final negotiating session. The budget landed on lawmakers’ desks Tuesday afternoon in preparation for a Friday vote.
Consider the Mildred Pepper Senior Center in the Miami-Dade district of Rep. David Rivera, the House budget chief. For $1.7 million, seniors will enjoy “a domino room, a gymnasium, two classrooms, sewing room, arts and crafts room and dining and activities hall.”
“I think that’s relative,” Rivera said of the spending decisions. “There has to be a balance between projects around the state as well as spending that has a statewide impact.”
Other new projects include $1 million for a performing arts center in Lauderhill and another $1 million in economic development money to repave a two-lane road in East Hillsborough. A small airport project in Kissimmee would cost taxpayers $700,000. The town of Golden Beach, an affluent coastal enclave north of Miami where the per-capita income of $65,835 is nearly twice as high as the statewide average, would get $150,000 for emergency generators. Continue reading here.