TAMPA Nearly $9 million in education programs for Hillsborough County made an annual list of questionable state spending dubbed “turkeys” by a taxpayer group.
Florida TaxWatch today released its list of 107 line items accounting for $106.8 in spending items – part of the $74.5 billion state budget adopted by the state Legislature on May 3.
Much of the money targeted in the Hillsborough education programs is going to two programs – one called “Safer, Smarter Families” and the other, the Florida Endowment Foundation.
TaxWatch faults these and many other educational line items on the list because they were added late in the legislative process by conference committees of the House and Senate without full public review.
The biggest single expenditure on the TaxWatch itemized list is $4 million for Pinellas County to help pay for a sequel to “Winter's Tale” – the movie about the Clearwater Aquarium's star attraction, Winter the dolphin with the prosthetic tale.
The TaxWatch list also includes $1 million for expansion of the aquarium.
TaxWatch also singles out the proposed Coast to Coast Connector, a $50 million trail project that would run from St. Petersburg to Titusville. It doesn't warrant “turkey” status, TaxWatch says, and was not quietly slipped into the budget like other turkeys.
But the group questions whether the state's transportation work program can spare the money for the connector.
TaxWatch is urging Gov. Rick Scott to veto the items on the list. Scott has until May 24 to act on the budget and is unlikely to announce his decisions until next week.
Sen. Joe Negron, Stuart Republican and Senate budget chief, has questioned the group's criteria. During the recent session he also publicly questioned Florida TaxWatch's credibility because of some of the organization's members.
Here are some other local projects that made the turkey list:
$250,000 for “science technology” at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa
$350,000 for Mary Lee's House, a child advocacy and protection center in Tampa
$50,000 for the Northdale Civic Association Senior Center
$10,000 for 11 residential beds at Tampa Crossroads, a drug treatment center.
$100,000 Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa, providing community and development in East Tampa.
$78,750 for the Fannye Ponder house in St. Petersburg, monument to an African-American leader in Pinellas.