Although the economic downturn has caused local government agencies to make tough budget decisions, many are still carving out room for lobbyists.
In total, millions of dollars in public funds are spent statewide to influence decisionmakers in Tallahassee. A Times/Herald analysis of lobbyist compensation reports for the first three months of 2012 shows that spending by local agencies will fall somewhere between $3.1 million and $9.2 million. (Lobbyists are required to provide only ranges of their compensation.)
That amount doesn't include salaries paid to in-house governmental relations staff or the additional dollars paid for memberships to trade associations, which also have Tallahassee lobbyists.
Miami-Dade County contracts with eight lobbying firms. The school system, clerk of courts, transportation agencies, Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and 21 municipalities have lobbyists, too. All told, government agencies in the county spent between $620,000 and $1.2 million during the first three months of the year.
At least $210,000 was spent on lobbying by Tri-Rail, the commuter train system that runs from Palm Beach County to Miami, though some of that money will stretch the entire year. Government affairs manager Vicki Wooldridge said she relies on lobbyists from a handful of firms to assist her at state, federal and local levels.
"The easy answer is, I can't be everywhere all the time," Wooldridge said, noting she doesn't have other in-house staff.
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