With no paper trail, the public is left to rely on what they’re told by lawmakers. That can get confusing.
Gaetz, R-Niceville, acknowledged that he helped get $14 million for an advanced technology center at Panama City’s Gulf Coast State College in his district. That amount was not included in the initial budgets passed by the House and Senate.
The Department of Education, which oversees state colleges and recommends spending on colleges to lawmakers, didn’t request any projects to lawmakers.
The money will be spent on the construction of a 70,000-square-foot classroom and lab building.
Yet this spending seems to contradict Gaetz’s desire to move away from education capital spending.
“It’s becoming more and more obvious that there just aren’t enough dollars to build all the buildings and buy all of the conventional instructional infrastructure that colleges and universities traditionally use,” Gaetz told the Herald/Times in February. “Many of us in public education have an edifice complex. We think that instruction can’t occur, education can’t happen unless we build something. That’s not true anymore.”
In late April, Senate budget chairman Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, defended last-minute inserts by lawmakers, saying they don’t have to rely on recommendations by state agencies.
“If you check the Florida Constitution, it’s the responsibility of the Legislature to write the state budget,” Negron said. “The Legislature should be responsible for every line item in the budget, and I think we’ve done that.”
Yet, Negron and lawmakers ceded large portions of the budget to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which recommended $26.7 million in beach nourishment projects. Of the top 11 projects included on that list, nine made it into the budget. Lawmakers approved all 39 projects recommended by the Department of State for $1.4 million in small historic preservation grants. But lawmakers hardly followed another list of recommended projects by the Division of Cultural Affairs. It evaluated 22 projects and ranked them in order of worthiness for state grants.
Lawmakers approved only four, and the projects to get funding were ranked 1, 6, 13 and 16.
“Why have the list if they don’t follow it?” Wenner said. “They should follow it, or don’t do it anymore.”
Times staff writers Thomas C. Tobin and Steve Bousquet contributed to this report. Contact Michael Van Sickler at (850) 224-7263 or email@example.com.