By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Gov. Rick Scott has announced that he will take a look at other possible budget transparency programs in Florida.
Right now, advocates are asking state lawmakers to make public an online budget transparency program that the state has already spent about $5 million on — but the release of the program has hit a snag.
Gov. Rick Scott is seeking competitive bids for a Florida budget website open to all citizens rather than renewing an existing contract that now excludes the public.
The governor’s office on Monday confirmed Scott’s decision.
The Florida Senate currently has a contract for a little-used secure website called Transparency 2.0 that cost taxpayers about $5 million to develop but is unavailable to the public.
It expires Dec. 31. The contractor, Spider Data Services, wants $1 million a year to renew the contract as is. Making it public would cost more.
Scott has so far declined to renew the contract because it’s a no-bid contract.
Integrity Florida and the First Amendment Foundation, however, have said they don’t want state officials to continue to drag their feet on this. Time and money have already been spent on the program, but it looks like lawmakers won’t move the program forward.
Advocates also say that the program is also robust and easy to use — and could end up saving the state money, as well as making the way it spends taxpayer money more understandable and accessible.
Earlier this year, a report found that Florida’s budget transparency website was difficult to use and does not provide visitors the ability to search for expenditures by keyword or activity, tax expenditures, or off-budget agencies. The already somewhat-established program would change that.
Lawmakers have promised to bring transparency to the state budget, as well as to the economic incentive money the state gives to businesses in the hopes that they create jobs in Florida. However, there was only a recent accidental leak of some of the economic incentives information, and it now looks like the state will start from scratch on a budget transparency program.