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Pasco should put lobbying money to better use

A county government proposing substantial property and gasoline tax increases needs to assure the public it has exhausted every opportunity for cost savings elsewhere. Pasco County hasn't done that yet, but commissioners can start when considering their annual contract with a Tallahassee lobbyist.

Pasco County's open request for proposals from firms seeking the county's lobbying work is scheduled to close Tuesday. Commissioners should kill the process entirely and save the money for more imperative needs.

There simply is no reason for Pasco to spend $65,000 a year, plus $5,000 for expenses, to retain an out-of-town firm to lobby the Florida speaker of the House who lives in Wesley Chapel. Nor will there be a reason in the near future with Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, scheduled to become speaker in three years.

"I think it's ludicrous,'' Corcoran said. "Given who we have in the delegation, there is absolutely no need for a lobbyist. I'd rather they spent that money on a firefighter or a police officer than on a lobbyist.''

Corcoran's blunt assessment is welcome. Too frequently, Pasco's legislative delegation has acquiesced to the county's unnecessary spending on lobbying.

The commission originally retained Slater Bayliss of the Advocacy Group at Tew Cardenas LLC for $40,000 in 2005 to lobby for transportation dollars even though then-Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, chaired the Senate committee overseeing transportation appropriations. The dubious spending never ceased and, instead, expanded five years later to cover nontransportation issues when the county's other lobbyist retired.

With little or no discussion, commissioners routinely renewed the publicly financed lobbying contract. That changed in March when Commissioner Henry Wilson persuaded the rest of the board to offer Bayliss just a three-month extension through the 2013 legislative session and then to find out if other firms wanted to bid for the county lobbying contract.

Wilson got it half right. The commission should bag its lobbyist entirely and put the money toward programs closer to home such as code enforcement or road maintenance. And in the near future, if commissioners feel the need to lobby the state's most powerful legislators, they know where to find them. Their offices are in central Pasco.

Pasco should put lobbying money to better use 07/18/13 [Last modified: Friday, July 19, 2013 4:42pm]
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