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Watchdog calls on governor to give 'special scrutiny' to $2.8B in next Florida budget

'At some point, we are going to have to ask those questions about restraint,' says Tony Carvajal, Florida TaxWatch executive vice president
Posted at 6:16 PM, Apr 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-28 18:17:40-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Watchdogs are warning that Florida's next budget contains hundreds of millions worth of questionable projects, advising the governor to consider vetoing them.

Florida TaxWatch released its annual report Thursday morning, identifying "budget turkeys."

These are projects the group said did not receive proper oversight during the regular lawmaking session and often do not serve a statewide purpose.

Officials identified 166 projects worth $281 million as "turkeys." It was the highest dollar amount in the last five years — though TaxWatch still considered it "a lean year."

Check out the full report and turkey list here.

Tony Carvajal, Florida TaxWatch vice president
Tony Carvajal outlines some of the projects that he believes should be vetoed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

"Florida taxpayers do not have a choice as to whether they pay these taxes," said Tony Carvajal, Florida TaxWatch executive vice president. "They deserve to have a transparent and accountable allocation of their funds."

TaxWatch also called on the governor to give "special scrutiny" to the large $2.8 billion in member projects. That's higher than the last five years combined.

Those funds are often for local efforts and typically come in under a million each, TaxWatch said. This year, three of the member projects topped $100 million.

"Just two years ago, our budget was only $92.2 billion in this state," Carvajal said. "It has grown 20% since then. At some point, we are going to have to ask those questions about restraint."

Lawmakers approved a record $112.1 billion for the next fiscal year. The appropriations bill contains Gov. Ron DeSantis' priorities like the state guard, a gas tax cut and more money for teachers and first responders. It also sets aside a billion to offset inflation.

Gov. Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks from the Capitol regarding next fiscal year's budget.

The governor hasn't received the bill yet but has been traveling around the state announcing support for various line items.

Earlier this month, DeSantis said he intends to scale the price tag back "a bit."

"Yes, we've got a lot of good things going on, but you don't want irrational exuberance," DeSantis said at a press event held April 5. "You need to plan for the future."

It’s unclear when DeSantis will sign the bill.

Some political experts suggest he's holding it as leverage until after next month's special session on property insurance, which starts May 23.

Once DeSantis receives the budget, the Republican will have two weeks to consider it. After it's signed, it takes effect July 1.