You Paid For it: Florida House Speaker promises to save taxpayers $1 billion

House Speaker Richard Corcoran
House Speaker Richard Corcoran

(WFLA) — The incoming Speaker of the Florida House, Richard Corcoran (R) Lutz, won’t preside over his first legislative session in Tallahassee for another three months, but he’s already gaining a reputation as a fearless and stingy guardian of the billions in state taxes that You Paid For.

We said we were conservatives and now we’re governing like conservatives with the public tax dollars,” Corcoran tells 8 On Your Side.  “The result is, what we’re finding is tons and tons of examples when we flip on the kitchen light all of these funding mechanisms are out there, the cockroaches are scattering and we need to find a way to finally put that to rest.”

He’s already finding plenty of ways that will likely make him an unpopular guy in some corners of the Florida Capitol when lawmakers start parsing out the state’s $82 billion budget next year.

For starters, no more hidden “pork” planted in the budget by lawmakers for pet projects. Under Corcoran’s house rule, every appropriation has to have a bill attached with the sponsor’s name and lawmakers have to answer 37 questions to justify the expense.

“You have to file it as a bill prior to the session, so there isn’t last minute stuffing in the budget — hundreds of millions of dollars without any kind of public scrutiny out there in the light of day,” Corcoran said.

Talk’s cheap, especially in the Florida Legislature and even the best intentions often fall astray. But, Corcoran has already backed up some of his calls of transparency with dramatic results.  A few weeks ago, Corcoran filed suit to make public the confidential contract that paid performer Pitbull $1 million to promote state tourism. Days later, that lawsuit unearthed the contract and resulted in a house cleaning at Visit Florida, along with the governor’s call for a complete public accounting of Visit Florida spending, right down to the payroll.

Corcoran would like to see Visit Florida’s tourism promotion spending gutted or even eliminated. ”Why is government even in the business of paying for private companies advertising,” Corcoran said. “It makes no sense. That’s de facto socialism.”

Corcoran is now turning his attention to Visit Tampa Bay and is threatening to yank that private tourism agency’s $12 million public funding unless the organization accounts for every penny of its spending — including its $4.2 million payroll subsidized by the bed tax in Hillsborough County.

“It’s the exact same scenario and that should be the public’s business,” Corcoran said.

The House Speaker is also taking aim at one of the governor’s pet projects —Enterprise Florida— the public-private agency that doles out millions in incentives and tax breaks to corporations that “promise” to move jobs to Florida from other states.

Corcoran insists that just one of his many suggested reforms — full disclosure of spending proposals — will reap a huge reward for Florida taxpayers. “That accountability I assure you will cut a billion dollars out of the budget.”

“We want to do the right thing and for lack of a better phrase and damn the consequences,” Corcoran said.

So what gives Corcoran the brazen confidence to believe he can change way state government operates almost overnight — and possibly put him on a collision course with the Florida Senate President and governor?  Watch our exclusive with him tonight at six and see for yourself what the new Speaker of the House plans to do and how he plans to save Floridians at least a billion dollars in taxes that You Paid For.

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