Broward News

Gov. Rick Scott Light Rail Saved More Than $300 Million, but That's Chump Change Compared to These Budget Sinkholes

Gov. Rick Scott last week turned down $2.4 billion in federal money to build high-speed rail in Florida, saying it could cost the state $300 million in cost overruns. And that got us thinking: Doesn't the state blow $300 million-plus like it's pocket change? So we searched for other similarly priced wastes of money. It wasn't hard to find these examples.

Retirement Plus

How would you like to get a regular paycheck and a pension check, both at the same time? A few years ago, it wasn't so unheard-of in Florida. Back in 2008, the St. Petersburg Times reported on a state law loophole that paid out close to $300 million in pension payments to more than 8,000 state workers who were still employed. According to the Florida Retirement System, more than 200 elected officials double-dipped thanks to the amended retirement bill that allowed retirement benefits to be issued along with regular pay. 

Florida no longer doles out dollars double time for pension payments, but this year, it became the only state in the country where employees in the state retirement system do not have to contribute a portion of their own salary.

Students Stuck on Repeat
No one can argue against education -- but what about re-education? Florida spends close to $300 million on remedial education, specifically, children repeating kindergarten through third grade. A February 2009 Florida Department of Education report showed more than 40,000 public school students in that age range who repeated during the 2007-08 school year. 

The New Hollywood
What would you like to see your tax dollars used toward: television production cost rebates or a high speed train to Disney? Tough decision -- but not for the state. The Miami Herald recently reported on a vote to commit close to $300 million in subsidies for television and movie productions filmed in Florida. The five-year plan is a 370 percent increase -- up from $5 million in 2009 -- meant to encourage filming in the Sunshine State. And it worked: Since the increase went into effect last July, five new television productions have shown interest in setting up shop in South Florida, including A&E, ABC, and Fox -- each slated to begin filming later this year. 


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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna