Will Pasco-Hernando State College get that performing arts center it has been hoping for? Not if the governor is paying attention to political activist group Florida TaxWatch.
The $10 million project is one of more than $120 million in taxpayer “turkeys” TaxWatch says is in this year’s state budget. A turkey, according to the group, does not mean that the project isn’t worthy of funding. Instead, the list is designed to “promote transparency in public budgeting and encourage meaningful legislative review of all appropriations.”
Even with the Legislature looking to provide tax cuts to some payers, Florida TaxWatch warns that not every project has been properly scrutinized.
“It is understandable that lawmakers would like to share this year’s budget surplus with their local constituents through member projects,” said Kurt Wenner, the group’s tax research vice president, in a release “However, in order to ensure transparency during appropriations and that proper accountability standards are in place for these projects, the Legislature should establish a competitive selection process for them to receive funding.”
The PHSC project, according to the report, was not part of the college system’s three-year Public Education Capital Outlay program, and thus was not fully reviewed, TaxWatch said. It was the only Pasco County project to get noted in the report. Hillsborough County, on the other hand, had turkeys worth $33.2 million including $2.5 million for the Museum of Science & Industry.
The turkeys themselves make up a tiny fraction of the state’s total $77.1 billion budget, which Gov. Rick Scott will have to finalize before June 4. Florida TaxWatch has offered suggestions on other ways the $120 million can be spent, including ideas to slightly increase student funding, reducing the Agency for Persons With Disabilities’ wait list by more than 4,000 individuals, and increasing state employee salaries by more than $1,000.
To read Florida TaxWatch’s full report on this year’s budget turkeys, click here.