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Gobble, gobble. Senators poised to stuff $4m in earmarks today in budget

They've called them "turkeys" in Tallahassee, "earmarks" in Washington -- and critical "fair-share" hometown spending items in those legislative districts that benefit from the dedicated funding sources targeting specific projects.

These member projects used to be the life's blood of the legislative process, a good way for lawmakers to show they could bring home bacon for needy people and services in their communities. The hometown projects were a great way for legislative leaders to control rank-and-file lawmakers as well. But that was in the days when there was enough fat in the budget to go around.

Regardless of their worth, Gov. Rick Scott pledged in his campaign ads to end the process of inserting member projects (though he inserted one for his Lt. Gov., Jennifer Carroll in his budget, $1.9 million, but whatever).

Looks like the Florida Senate doesn't want to give up on the earmarked spending. Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has the most sponsored earmarks (though many of them benefit Miami-Dade, so this is a favor to Dade lawmakers). He joked at the criticism of member projects.

"Everything in the budget is a member project because the members decide how to spend the money," he said. Negron pointed out that he's pushing relatively small spending items to help poor people eat or ensure that the developmentally disabled get some help.

In some cases, the members are pitted against each other -- budget chief J.D. Alexander takes $750,000 from a Miami-Dade College project in Hialeah, for instance, and gives it to Santa Fe College for a crime lab. Other money would be drained from the governor's quick-action closing fund, which is used to lure business to the state.

Here's a list of the hometown projects we could find in the amendment packet for today's budget debate:

 Amount  Recipient Sponsor
 $   750,000.00 Santa Fe Community College Alexander
 $   500,000.00 Dan Marino Foundation Negron
 $   500,000.00 Loveland Center Negron
 $   200,000.00 Farm Share Hays
 $   200,000.00 Food Banks Hays
 $   860,000.00 Exponica Trade Summit and Exponica International Gaetz
 $   300,000.00 Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Centers Negron
 $   430,298.00 Allapattah Hot Meals Program Negron
 $     20,000.00 Governor's Mentoring Initiative Lynn & Wise
 $     50,000.00 Lynn & Wise
 $   200,000.00 Base Realignment and Closure Commission Gaetz
 $4,010,298.00 Total