What will the governor do with the budget that is now sitting on his desk?
Gov. Rick Scott has until June 4 to decide which items he plans to spare, and which spending items he plans to veto from the $77.1 billion budget that the Republican-controlled Legislature passed earlier this year.
It's no secret that flush with a budget surplus that lawmakers made sure to sprinkle plenty of it around the state.
Moments before voting for it, Sen. Alan Hays boldly proclaimed "I am going to go home and brag about what we have done."
Yes, there's a lot that came with the new 2014-15 budget: More money for education, more money to hire additional child protection investigators, to start projects to help clean water pollution around the state. It's no doubt that Scott will find a lot to praise when he signs it into law in the next few weeks.
There's already been quite a bit of ink written about funding for a variety of hometown projects including money for a Miami observation tower, a Brevard County gun range, to money for a dog park for a upper scale neighborhood located in Jacksonville. Senate budget chief Joe Negron and other legislators have been quite vocal about their constitutional right to appropriate money to these projects.
One business-backed group that makes an annual list of hometown projects that it says should be vetoed rolled out its own list late last week.
But that list barely had any mentions that this year's budget is a treasure-trove for private vendors and consultants.
Every year a great deal of state money is outsourced - whether to juvenile justice providers to information technology expenses to the vast array of health care providers who provide health care services as part of Florida's Medicaid program.
But spread through the budget are orders from legislators to hire outside companies to do everything from drawing up a data security plan, conducting a study on whether to upgrade the statewide law enforcement radio system, and a study to look at splitting up the joint engineering college run by Florida A&M University and Florida State University
Some of these projects, such as the law enforcement radio system study, are the result of behind-the-scenes pushing and pulling that came from lobbyists while the engineering college study was a compromise following a push to split up the school.
A quick run-through shows that close to $12 million was set aside just to hire consultants to perform studies or help set up pilot programs. The amount is bound to be much higher since in some places legislators directed state agencies to hire someone but they didn't set aside a specific amount for the contract.
But some of the items that are broken out include:
* $50,000 provided to the city of Destin to do a feasibility study for an aquatic nature park.
* $500,000 to the Agency for Health Care Administration to hire an "independent consultant" to review the state's funding mechanism for reimbursing hospitals for Medicaid costs. Legislators ordered that the review must look at the "equity, accountability and sustainability" of the funding mechanism.
* $1.75 million for the Department of Management Services (DMS) to hire a company to administer a voluntary state employee wellness program covering up to 2,000 state workers. The program shall use lab services to assess health risks such as heart disease and diabetes.
* $200,000 for DMS to hire a consulting firm to do a "technology risk assessment" of the online application used for the Florida Retirement System.
* $200,000 for the Auditor General to hire "subject matter experts" to conduct a full audit on joint electric power supply projects.
* $250,000 for a voluntary obesity therapy program for state employees. The consulting firm hired will provide physician-supervised behavioral weight therapy to 175 employees with a body mass index over 30.
* $300,000 for DMS for an outside "independent" vendor to do a transition plan for relocating the data center facility located at the Northwood Centre to the facility at the state-owned Capital Circle Office Complex. And in a sign that the language may have been tailored to a select few companies the budget provision says the firm "must have demonstrated experience in data center consolidation and relocation planning and must have successfully provided similar services for other entities of comparable size and complexity."
Some contracts have no specified amount and instead direct agencies to fund them out of large line items - which makes it difficult legally for Scott to veto them (although that hasn't stopped Scott and other governors from trying.)
* The Department of Transportation is told it "may" use part of its $105 million traffic engineering consultant budget to contract with "qualified traffic signal and traffic control device
contractors to provide evaluation, installation, operations, or maintenance of traffic signals and any other traffic control devices to municipalities and counties."
* The Department of Economic Opportunity is mandated to find money in its agency budget to "contract for an independent third-party to verify that each business that receives an economic development incentive satisfies all of the requirements of the incentive agreement, including job creation numbers. These comprehensive performance audit functions must include reviewing: 100 percent of all
incentive claims, including audit confirmations; procedures used to verify incentive eligibility; and the department’s records for accuracy and completeness."
When asked about the long list of contract items included in the budget, House Speaker Will Weatherford said he could not speak to each individual item.
But he said that legislators in charge of the budget put in spending for things that they thought "served the state best." He called the overall budget a "great" product.