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MacKay: Send Miami the bill

Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay wants the Florida Legislature to make it clear that troubled cities like Miami are going to have to pay for state oversight needed to clean up their financial messes.

MacKay is in a position to have definite views on the issue: Gov. Lawton Chiles appointed him to head Florida's first-ever oversight board working with a city to straighten out its financial house.

That city is Miami, and the central problem is a budget deficit estimated at more than $50-million.

MacKay's office is drafting a plan to make Miami repay the state money the oversight board has spent _ and will spend _ in working to help Miami.

"You could see this on the face of every non-Miami legislator as they say, "Wait a minute. We're subsidizing the taxpayers of someplace that was incompetent?' " MacKay said.

MacKay's plan brought a frosty reaction from Miami Mayor Joe Carollo.

"I have no comment," the mayor said.

But equally irate Miami City Commissioner Tomas Regalado had more to say to the state.

"If they want to supervise, they're going to have to pay for it," he said. "I would lobby members of the Dade delegation (in the Legislature) to spare Miami those payments because, after all, we don't know how much the bill will be.

"They could send a bill to us for several million dollars," Regalado said.

Last Dec. 3, Chiles used Chapter 218 _ a never-before-used law _ to declare Miami's "state of financial emergency." The law permits the governor to name an oversight board as watchdog for any Florida city that fails to balance its budget two years in a row.

Trouble is, Chapter 218 does not say who pays the state oversight board's bills.

In the meantime, the bills are piling up.

The board has signed contracts to spend at least $451,265 for lawyers, financial advisers and advice for Miami from the South Florida Regional Planning Council. Tack onto that $23,000 for the board's travel costs, office help and supplies. And it's climbing.