TAMPA — Florida TaxWatch included on its list of "turkeys" in the state budget this year the $12 million allocated to the Tampa Port Authority gantry crane project.
The port got its money, but TaxWatch isn't done talking about why the project made the turkey list.
A letter by TaxWatch's chief research officer, Robert Weissert, appeared in Saturday's Tampa Bay Times that defended the project.
"The gantry crane is a great investment for Florida and will help bolster our competitive advantage as we attempt to increase the capacity of our ports and establish the state as a world trade hub," Weissert wrote.
TaxWatch president Dominic Calabro said his organization was questioning only the process by which the port authority got the state to help pay for the $25 million cargo crane project — not the project itself.
"There was some confusion," Calabro said Wednesday. "We like the merit of the project. We just had concern about how it got inserted into the budget.
"In our opinion, it wasn't vetted properly. It didn't come up through the executive agencies. It wasn't brought up through the committees in the House or Senate. It came in very late."
In response to the crane funding's landing on the turkey list, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce president Bob Rohrlack called the project "smart business" in a letter that appeared in Monday's Times.
"Could the review process be improved? Of course," Rohrlack wrote. "But until we have a better process in place, the use of budget line items is necessary to fund the projects and programs our communities need."