Turkey List Pulled Too Early From the Oven

This week it was all over the news that the not-for-profit group Florida TaxWatch released its list of Budget Turkeys. According to the group, the list includes appropriations, “usually a legislative member project, that violates the integrity and transparency of the budgeting process. These are items that didn’t get the review necessary to ensure competition, prioritization, and accountability of the taxpayers’ hard earned money. – (pdf)”

The group didn’t urge Governor Crist to use his power to line-item veto everything on their Budget Turkey List. They claimed the list was published to encourage Governor Crist to give the items a “close review.”

Included on the list was at least one item important to Lakeland residents: $10,000,000 to help toward construction of the new USF Lakeland campus.

I may not agree with USFL VP/CEO Marshall Goodman when it comes to naming the campus, but I completely agree with what he wrote:

“Our board backed us, our communities backed us, our local governments backed us, our chamber of commerce backed us, and the list goes on. This was not a so-called ‘stealth line item.’ It earned the legislature’s support fairly and deserves to survive the veto pen.”

Nevertheless, this morning, before he signed the budget, Governor Crist removed the money for USF Lakeland and many other Polk County projects. Florida Taxwatch gobbled up the veto news:

The Governor today hit a grand slam for the taxpayers of Florida with his budget message and vetoes. He has demonstrated his sensaativity to the plight of Florida’s taxpayers in holding the line on unnecessary spending and taxation and shown the discipline and leadership to carry out his principles. Florida Taxwatch congratulates Governor Crist and the Legislature for ensuring we have hefty reserves of $7 billion and there is little or no use of non-recurring revenue for recuring general revenue programs. (pdf)

But, hold on. A few short hours after the University learned the Governor had left USF hanging like a chad, Florida Taxwatch said “Oops.”

Dominic Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, announced that USF Lakeland was included on the “turkey list” due to “incorrect or incomplete information” and that Florida TaxWatch had notified the Governor’s Budget Director of the error.

The University sent me that notice, and I haven’t been able to contact Florida Taxwatch to confirm, but it certainly rings true.

I wanted to ask Florida Taxwatch how they compile their list. Who decides what is included? They state the “turkey” label “does not condemn a project’s worthiness.” Who are they kidding? They call it the Turkey List precisely to belittle any item mentioned. Why not call it a Watch These or Pay Special Attention List?

I have to say this year’s list was dry and undercooked.