As legislative session looms on the horizon, lawmakers are trying to squeeze in their personal projects into next years’ budget. However, not all of those proposals will make it.
Justin Rowland is a United States Marine Corps veteran. He served for eight years and went twice to Iraq. Rowland says he’s been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“I tended to be a shut-in. I’ve got a wife and two kids. So we, wanted to go out and do things but there was a lot of times I just didn’t want to leave the house," Rowland says.
Rowland says he would always be on the lookout for some kind of danger, causing him anxiety. He says nothing was working for him until he enrolled in K9s for Warriors. It’s a program that pairs service dogs with veterans and active duty service members. People from all over the nation can apply. The program is national, but operates in Florida.
Rowland is from Michigan and now lives with Mac, a service dog given to him through K9s for Warriors. He says Mac gets him out of the house.
“He’ll tend to sense when I’m kind of getting anxious or depressed and he’ll usually just do something goofy and just kind of keep my mind off of things. He just knows what to do at the right time,” Rowland says.
Last year, two Florida lawmakers tried to get the state to help fund K9s for Warriors, but their proposal died. Now, Rep. Nicholas Duran (D-Miami) is trying to get K9s for Warriors in the 2020 – 2021 state budget. He wants more than $600,000 to be donated. However, with so many projects vying for approval, not all of them will make it through the budget process.
Member projects could include funding for a new park, restoring a bridge, or even a throwing a festival. Florida TaxWatch keeps track of these projects and sends a list of them to Florida’s governor. Dominic Calabro is President of the group. He says in the past, a lot of these local projects were vetoed.
“There’s only so many things we can fund. Even though the state budget is $91 billion," Calabro says.
Calabro says prior commitments like education and healthcare, which make up the bulk of state spending can make it hard for the legislature to fund extra programs. He says in the coming years, there’s going to be less money, and fewer member projects getting approval.
“There’s nothing wrong with them. It’s good for legislatures to respond to the demands and legitimate concerns of their constituents. But there’s got to be discipline, accountability, and transparency so that people know what they’re voting on,” Calabro says.