Volume 1 Number 10
March 8, 2004

Text-only version

Tom Gallagher: “As Florida’s CFO, I have a constitutional responsibility to evaluate the financial soundness and accountability of state projects, including a high-speed rail."


CFO Gallagher and Governor Bush greet Burt Aaronson, Palm Beach County Commissioner.




The decisions we make now can impact our state for years to come.  That is why I have joined Governor Bush to pursue a legislative resolution to repeal a constitutional amendment passed in 2000 to create a high-speed rail in Florida.   I believe many Floridians will also be gravely concerned when they learn of the multi-billion dollar price tag associated with building a high-speed rail – a cost that will fall directly in the laps of Florida taxpayers. 

In fact, the price tag is still growing. A report issued by the Florida High Speed Rail Authority in January 2002 estimated that the cost to build the first 80-mile rail segment between Tampa and Orlando would be between $1.2 billion and $1.8 billion.  In January of this year, the Authority reported that the costs have more than doubled to an estimated $2.6 billion.  

As Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, I have a constitutional responsibility to evaluate the financial soundness and accountability of state projects, including a high-speed rail. I have evaluated the data and potential impact on the state's treasury, including the escalating costs, questionable ridership projections, uncertainty of federal funding and lack of private sector participation.  I believe diverting billions of taxpayer dollars to implement a high-speed rail is simply unconscionable.  

With no guarantee of federal funding and a lack of funding from the private sector, Florida taxpayers are facing a $150 million price tag annually for the next 30 years just to build the first rail segment.  The Florida Transportation Commission also announced last month that the proposed rail would not alleviate traffic congestion in and around the I-4 corridor. 

Moreover, implementing a project of this magnitude will come at a great cost to the current and ongoing transportation needs of our state.  Projects like the Palmetto Expressway in Miami, I-75 in Lee County, US 19 in Pinellas County, SR 520 in Orlando, I-95 in Brevard County, Butler Boulevard in Jacksonville, and US 331 in Walton County. These are concrete transportation projects with known benefits. High-speed rail is an unknown.

With Florida nearing its legislatively mandated debt limit, I am now urging state lawmakers to consider that taking on a substantial debt to finance the high-speed rail could negatively impact the state's financial standing and impair our ability to get the best value for our dollar.  State lawmakers need a two-thirds majority to place a constitutional amendment to repeal the high-speed rail on the 2004 ballot.

Absent action by the Legislature, I will be asking Floridians to put this issue back on the ballot.  To accomplish this, I am serving as Chairman of the Derail the Bullet Train (DEBT)– a committee formed to help educate Floridians on the costs and potential impacts of the high-speed rail project and spearhead a citizen petition drive to collect enough signatures to get an amendment to repeal the rail on the November ballot. 

In a time when other state priorities such as education, economic development, and health care deserve our full attention, we need to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and efficiently.   The people of Florida deserve to know the truth – and that is funding a high speed rail will come at the expense of other state priorities and solely on the backs of hard-working taxpayers.

                   My best,  





Good Morning America recently highlighted the Florida Department of Financial Services’ success in getting convictions in insurance fraud cases.

The report, aired last Wednesday, focused on the arrest and conviction of a Lake City couple who had ripped off their workers’ compensation carrier for almost 10 years.  Bruce and Alice Gilbert almost got away with collecting more than  $750,000 based on fraudulent claims filed with the Florida League of Cities. CONTINUED


   DWC e-Alert



Division of
Workers' Compensation



A Pensacola couple has been sentenced to serve a collective 27 years in state prison for organized fraud on consumers and suppliers, theft of sales tax monies, workers’ compensation fraud, racketeering and destruction of evidence.  The convictions last month follow a lengthy investigation by the Department of Financial Services and several other local, state, and federal agencies into complaints about the couple’s business, Backyard Sheds.

Billy Schimmel was sentenced as a habitual offender to 20 years in Florida state prison.  His wife Debbie was sentenced to seven and a half years in Florida state prison.  Both were ordered to pay more than  $289,000 in restitution to at least 30 vendors and customers.  The Schimmels were also sentenced to serve 10 years’ probation upon release from prison. The couple was convicted by a trial jury in March 2003.  CONTINUED

Commissioner Jeff Koons and Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher.

Palm Beach County Home


CFO offers inspiration and promises to push for more consumer financial protections during annual Tallahassee gathering.

Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher offered a hopeful vision of Florida’s future and promised to ensure seniors and financial consumers are better protected from fraud and abuse at a Tallahassee rally last week.  Gallagher spoke to more than 100 concerned citizens from Palm Beach County who made their annual trek to the state’s capital for the opening week of the legislative session.  CONTINUED




A receiver has been appointed to oversee LifeTime Capital, Inc., a viatical company that once operated out of Dayton, Ohio, and South Florida.

H. Thomas Moran II, of Oklahoma City, has been appointed receiver to prevent waste and dissipation of the assets of LifeTime.  In January, federal indictments were returned against eight company principals alleged to have participated in a large-scale money laundering, mail fraud and interstate transportation of money obtained by fraud. 

The indictments were the result of a long-term investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud, and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation’s Division of Investigations.  CONTINUED