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Negron wants 'intensive' budget review in Senate

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, on Wednesday promised an "intensive" review of state spending, including state contracts and recurring local projects that are renewed each year with little or no public scrutiny. He also backs the idea of a separate review of all local spending that Gov. Rick Scott will propose in his budget.

"We really want to enhance our review of the base budget," said Negron, who currently ranks as the Legislature's most seasoned budget-watcher (he has chaired all human services spending in the Senate and previously ran the full House Appropriations Committee.

Negron urged fellow senators to take a much closer look at state contracts with private providers, and to hold state agencies accountable for cases in which there are "huge variations" in the costs the state is paying for similar services in different areas of the state."Sometimes there are divergences that can't be explained," Negron said.

He credited Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater for encouraging the review of contracts, and said he had an open mind and no preconceived notions about contracting practices.

Negron gave the overview in the form of a request to the senators who chair individual budget subcommittees, who listened closely but offered no public reaction at a brief meeting. The intensive review will all be in public, Negron promised: "It will all be done in the sunshine."

-- Steve Bousquet

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