Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Senate President Don Gaetz suggests Florida should replace budget transparency program

TALLAHASSEE — Open government advocates increased the heat on state officials to unlock access to a budget transparency website Friday as Senate President Don Gaetz continued to distance himself from the site under his control.

Gaetz, R-Niceville, announced he is asking Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, to develop legislation to create a "user-friendly, accurate, cost-effective, Web-based transparency tool" for the state budget that could include or replace the system developed by Spider Data Systems.

The state has already spent at least $4.5 million on the Spider Data budget transparency program, called Transparency 2.0, under a contract entered into by former Senate President Mike Haridopolos in 2011. The sole-source contract allowed for the company to use its patented technology to merge state budget, contract, personnel and accounting data into a single portal to allow legislators and staff to track how government money is spent.

But the powerful search functions of the website weaken the ability of legislative leaders and budget staffers to control the flow of information in Tallahassee, and the program has never been rolled out formally for lawmakers to use.

Integrity Florida and the First Amendment Foundation called upon Gaetz, Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Will Weatherford to allow a public demonstration of Transparency 2.0 "so the public can see what $5 million of their money purchased," said Dan Krassner, director of Integrity Florida, in a conference call with reporters Friday.

Their report, "Budget Transparency of the Sunshine State," reviewed the functions of the existing website and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater's contract search site, concluding that the Transparency 2.0 site is far superior.

"What we saw was a website that, if made public, would give the citizens of Florida, and our state policy makers, the opportunity to see all the spending, find waste and save millions of dollars for Florida taxpayers,'' Krassner said.

Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, compared the operation of Transparency 2.0 to a cell phone, while the existing website offered to the public was like using a rotary phone.

"Transparency 2.0 connects all the dots for me and gave me some dots I wasn't really expecting,'' Petersen said.

After the Times/Herald disclosed that lawmakers were poised to shelve the program when the contract with the vendors expires at the end of the month, Gaetz scheduled a meeting with the Spider Data System developers on Thursday to ask them questions.

In a letter to the Senate on Friday, Gaetz said he learned that the Senate does not own the software and must pay an additional $1 million a year to continue its contract with the vendor to keep the site current — information spelled out in the 2011 contract.

Gaetz said he concluded Transparency 2.0 "contains many valuable features, as do a variety of products and services brought before the Legislature each year. The question we must answer is which product will provide the most value to the taxpayers of Florida."

Senate President Don Gaetz suggests Florida should replace budget transparency program 12/07/12 [Last modified: Friday, December 7, 2012 10:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 5 things to know before Tampa Bay Comic Con this weekend


    Tampa Bay Comic Con returns to the Tampa Convention Center this weekend, expected to attract more than 55,000 like-minded nerds mingling with cosplayers, celebrities, artists and sellers of comic books and collectibles.

    Surrounded by the bridesmaids dressed as Disney princesses and groomsmen dressed as Marvel superheroes, Gwen Walter of Venice, Fla., kisses her husband, Shawn Walter, also of Venice, after their wedding ceremony on day two of the 2016 Tampa Bay Comic Con in the Tampa Convention Center on August 6, 2016. The pair got engaged at Megacon 2015 and were married wearing "Nightmare Before Christmas"-themed costumes. Two different couples were married in Room 24 on the second day of the Tampa Bay Comic Con 2016. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times
  2. White House tensions catch fire with Scaramucci interviews (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's new communications director exploded the smoldering tensions at the White House into a full-fledged conflagration Thursday, angrily daring Trump's chief of …

    White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci gestures as he answers a question during a press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing room of the White House in Washington on July 21, 2017. Scaramucci offered newsroom leaders a test on Thursday. They needed to decide whether to fully use the obscenities relied on by Scaramucci to describe fellow White House aides or talk around them. [Associated Press]
  3. Forecast: Drier pattern ending in Tampa Bay as front brings building rain chances throughout weekend


    The drier, hot weather pattern across Tampa Bay will remain in place Friday before rain chances start to ramp up yet again through the weekend and into next week.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  4. Police investigating death of child in Largo


    LARGO — An investigation is underway into the death of a child Thursday night at a mobile home park and a 25-year-old man has been named as a suspect, the Largo Police Department said.

  5. Goodbye, iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle: Apple kills products as music moves to phones


    SAN FRANCISCO — The iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle have played their final notes for Apple.

    An iPod, iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle are displayed at an Apple store in New York in 2015. The company discontinued sales of the iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle on Thursday, July 27, 2017, in a move reflecting the waning popularity of the devices in an era when most people store or stream their tunes on smartphones. [Associated Press]