Don Gaetz blasts TaxWatch in statement about ‘turkey’ list

Maybe it’s because the list of budget ‘turkeys’ put out by TaxWatch included a $14 million college construction project in his district. Or maybe it’s just general irritation with the organization’s questioning of the Legislature’s budget priorities. But Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, just issued a statement unloading on the annual report highlighting budget items that TaxWatch says didn’t go through the normal budget process and are ripe for a veto from Gov. Rick Scott.

Parts of the statement will be included in our story later today. But here’s the full 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.

“TaxWatch has dismissed as ‘turkeys’ mobile medical and dental units to bring health care to poor people in rural areas, documentation and education about the Holocaust, housing for disabled veterans, rehabilitation for severely wounded soldiers who want to return to duty, and replacement of 50 year old educational facilities that produce workforce for companies bringing jobs to Florida. In most cases, those who put together this list couldn’t find these projects on a map and haven’t put five minutes into finding out anything about them.

“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.”

The News Service of Florida