Florida needs a dedicated Strike Force directed at attacking public corruption in state government. There has been a lack of scrutiny, in large part because limited resources are dedicated to oversight of the excesses of state officials and abuses of the state budget. This must change if Floridians are to regain faith in their government and confidence in their elected leaders to effectively manage taxpayer dollars with fiscal responsibility.
That is why I have recommended assembling a Public Corruption Strike Force in Tallahassee to scrutinize state government operations. The notion would be to put together prosecutors and investigators from the state and federal government to attack public corruption full time – each handling matters related to their areas of statutory jurisdiction. Without a strike force in place, overreaches by the legislature continue to be unchecked. From a former House Speaker being indicted for his misappropriations of state funds to last minute, closed-door budget deal making that directed $48 million to the construction of a lucrative Taj Mahal-style courthouse in Tallahassee, it is time state government is held accountable.
The Florida Legislature has cut billions of dollars out of the state budget, while allowing shady, multi-million-dollar deals to continue. These budget cuts have had a significant effect on our local communities. Thousands of jobs have been lost, education is inadequately funded, and our courts’ ability to handle an increasing caseload and swiftly administer justice has been significantly hindered. At the same time, the legislature continues to pass unfunded mandates onto our local governments, forcing them to raise taxes.
It is vital that the largest unit of government in Florida have adequate scrutiny, looking over the shoulder of our state officials in Tallahassee and the $65 billion budget that too often is used to administer political favors rather than strengthen our local communities. Floridians have lost a good measure of faith in their state government, and it is understandable with indictments coming out of Tallahassee. I do not believe a corruption strike force will solve all of these problems, but I do believe a dedicated force of prosecutors and investigators can do a lot to change the culture of corruption that seems to define state government.
Dan Gelber is a state senator representing parts of Miami-Dade and Broward and the Democratic candidate for attorney general.