Watchdog group asks governor to veto $133M in funding

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Florida TaxWatch says $133 million should be slashed from the state’s proposed budget, though Gov. Ron DeSantis should employ a relatively “light touch” when wielding his line-item veto pen for the first time.

The business-backed nonprofit group Wednesday highlighted 109 member projects, known in Tallahassee parlance as “turkeys,” which it contends failed to be properly vetted before being inserted into the record $91.1 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

TaxWatch President Dominic Calabro said there isn’t accountability for projects without the public vetting process. Still, he said, the Legislature has gotten better in requiring members to file requests for money to fund projects.

“Overall, we think it’s pretty good,” Calabro said of the spending plan (SB 2500), which has not been formally sent to DeSantis. “We recommend that the governor not do what his predecessors have done in taking a very aggressive veto hand, but a light touch. Not just because of collegiality, but because they really did a good job in principle.”

After the budget was approved by the Legislature on May 4, DeSantis vowed he was ready to use his veto powers.

“It’s going to be under $91.1 billion when I get through with the budget, don’t worry about that,” DeSantis said during a traditional “sine die” ceremony in the Capitol’s fourth-floor rotunda after lawmakers ended the session.

READ: Full list of 2019 Budget Turkeys

Most of the 109 recommended cuts are projects focused locally that the watchdog group said should be paid for by local governments. Calabro said the money saved vetoing the turkeys could be used for classrooms or for hurricane recovery. 

Some of the Northeast Florida projects on the TaxWatch list of Turkeys include:

  • Jacksonville Urban Core Workforce Housing Project: $8 million
  • UNF Roy Lassiter Hall Renovations: $2 million    
  • Fernandina Beach Dune Stabilization Project: $146,640 
  • Ponte Vedra Beach N. Beach and Dune Rest: $500,000 
  • Clay County Historic Courthouse Restoration: $250,000 
  • Putnam County Fair Association: $750,000 

The largest cut recommended in this year’s report is a road-widening project in Citrus County with a price tag of $13.3 million.

Former Gov. Rick Scott, now a U.S. senator, vetoed $615 million in spending in 2011, his first year as governor. Last year, in his final year in the governor’s mansion, Scott axed just $64 million from the budget.

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