Even before TaxWatch published its annual list of budget items they consider "turkeys," Senate leaders had gone out of their way to defend their decision to fund projects that may not have been in state agencies' initial budget requests. Today the group released a list of $107 million in spending it believes Gov. Rick Scott should veto, just like it does every year in the days before the budget is signed.
Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, isn't amused. He didn't mince words about what he thinks about TaxWatch and its list of turkeys. He calls the report "arrogance of the elite" and says the group is "irrelevant 364 days a year."
Gaetz argues that teacher pay raises could be considered "turkeys" using the TaxWatch definition and that the group put meaningful and helpful programs on it suggested veto list. Scott is expected to sign the budget and unveil his actual vetoes either Monday or Friday.
Here is Gaetz's long, but entertaining statement:
"The TaxWatch list is built on the unconstitutional perversion that if an appropriation isn't recommended by unelected agency officials it shouldn't be considered in conference by elected legislators. This is an arrogance of the elite who spend too much time in Tallahassee and Washington listening to the echoes of their own invented wisdom and thinking they're hearing the voice of God.
"No agency put in its budget a $3,500 raise for Florida's most effective teachers, yet that was funded. No agency testified before the Legislature asking for a raise for state employees who had been without one for six years, yet we passed it. No bureaucrat in the Department of Education asked for a career-technical pathway to a high school diploma or an online pathway to a university degree, but we funded them. Not a whisper of criticism from TaxWatch on any of these and a hundred other similar items. So, apparently, their indignation is not only ill-informed but selective.
"If our founders had shared the slavish devotion of Taxwatch to unchallenged decisions and dictates of faraway bureaucrats, we'd all be drinking English tea and singing God Save the Queen. A good song. But not an American song. The Constitution obligates and empowers elected legislators, who come from communities and go home to communities, to write the state's budget. If TaxWatch staffers want to test their budget theories in the public square, let them stand up in front of conference committees and testify in public. More than thirty public, open conference committee meetings were held during the recent legislative session. Every item in the state budget was proposed and adopted during those public meetings. Testimony was requested and welcomed at every meeting. Not once did any person from TaxWatch ask one question, offer one idea or say one word.
"It is little wonder that TaxWatch is irrelevant 364 days a year."