The governor signed the state budget into law just after noon on April 17th, which coincidently happened to be Tax Day. The road to this point was detailed in a previous blog entry (To Tallahassee and Back: Building Florida’s Budget) and the many updates I posted to it. However, now that the final step was taken on the budget I thought it might be a good time to pull together the various updates and create the entry you are now reading.
Despite all the laws that pass, and the multitude of press conferences announcing the signing of this or that bill, the only constitutionally mandated job the Legislature has each year is the creation of a state budget. The Legislature presented to the governor a budget of $70.04 billion dollars for fiscal year 2012-13. This is a total of general revenue and trust fund dollars.
The Florida Constitution requires that the final state budget cannot be voted on until 72 hours has lapsed from the moment it was delivered to the members during the legislative session. It was not that many years ago that a hard copy of the budget had to be placed on each member’s desk to start that clock.While hard copies are still delivered, the age of information has allowed the budget to become available in electronic format the moment it is finalized.
The conference report was officially delivered to lawmakers on March 6 at 4:22 PM. The 72 hour clock began, which means that the vote could not be taken before 4:22 PM on what would be the final day of session.
The Florida House of Representatives passed the conference report on March 9 at 7:49 PM with an 80-37 vote. The Florida Senate subsequently took up the budget and passed it at 11:19 PM with a vote of 32-8.
On April 6 the state budget was delivered to the governor. The governor's action on the budget and the various "conforming" bills that accompany it is one of the most anticipated times during the entire legislative process. Because the governor has line-item veto authority he has the ability to remove individual appropriations from the budget without vetoing the entire package. The governor has up to 15 days to act on the budget.
An interesting aspect of Florida's budget process is the annual release of Florida TaxWatch's "Turkey Watch" list. Although not an "official" part of appropriating state dollars, it has become an expected “rite of passage” before the budget makes its final steps towards completion.
According to its website Florida TaxWatch "spotlights legislative projects placed in the budget without the proper opportunity for public review and debate, which circumvent lawfully established procedures, or which noncompetitively benefit a very limited special interest or local area of the state."
Although its list can be controversial, the "turkey" list identifies projects that the governor has the ability to veto through his line-item veto authority. On April 13 TaxWatch released its suggested veto list totally $170.9 million dollars. The governor is not obligated to do anything with the list. It is merely provided as a suggestion of vetoes this particular organization has identified.
Now that the governor has signed the budget, and vetoed $142.7 million dollars worth of projects (complete list is attached), the state can prepare for the coming fiscal year (and the legislature can begin working on next year’s budget). No rest for the weary!
I welcome your questions about the legislative process or any subject that lawmakers may have considered. Please feel free to leave your questions in the comment section and I will answer them in an upcoming post. If there is a specific topic you would like me to write about please let me know as well.