Consumer eViews

Volume 1, Number 11, March 15, 2004



Sir Winston Churchill said, “All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom; justice; honor; duty; mercy; hope.”

I would like to share a story that I believe exemplifies what Churchill meant.

Adam Rivero, an investigator in the State Fire Marshal’s Office, has been an Army reservist for 20 years.  He serves as a staff sergeant with the 320th MP Company from St. Petersburg.  Rivero and his friend, fellow Staff Sgt. Christopher Grilo of the 800th MP Brigade from Uniondale, N.Y., have made it a tradition that one of them carries a small American flag when they deploy.  The flag has been carried to 13 countries
since 1991.

“I decided to carry a flag in my wallet to be a constant reminder of who I was and to motivate others by pulling this flag from my wallet and proudly showing it at times when patriotism began to diminish,” Rivero said.  “I was proud of the fact that I love my country and being a soldier committed to its defense.” 

Each of us has a responsibility to protect and nurture the freedom that makes our nation strong.  

Those who voted last week in Florida’s Democratic primary carried out their responsibility.

Those who call or write their legislators to urge a change or support a proposal are carrying out their responsibility.

Those who take the time to serve on a jury are fulfilling their responsibility.

Rivero carried a flag. 

At only 3 inches by 5 inches, the soldiers wrote the name and date of operations on it — Saudi 91, Haiti 96, Bosnia 97/98, Salvador 99, Cuba Camp X-ray 2001, Kosovo/Macedonia  2001, Kuwait 2003, Iraq Feb 22, Baghdad May 10.

One of the flag’s last trips was to the site of the fallen World Trade Center towers.

“Like so many others,” Rivero said, “Sgt. Grilo and I are common people and I wanted a way to personally document the impact of military intervention towards the preservation of freedom and democracy throughout our world, in my lifetime and in the future.”

Rivero is back to investigating fires for the State Fire Marshal’s Office, and Sgt. Grilo remains on tour in Iraq.  Like looking for clues at fire scenes, Rivero is continuously looking for ways to support the country he loves.

“It is something that is precious to me,” Rivero said.

Freedom is precious and should never be taken for granted. 

                                                                         --  Tom Gallagher


Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher today joined forces with key legislative leaders to derail the bullet train, including House Speaker Designate Allen Bense, Senate Democratic Leader Ron Klein, and Representative Bob Allen. Representatives Dennis Baxley, Fred Brummer, Carl Domino, Andy Gardiner, Gayle Harrell, Ron Reagan, and David Rivera, and Senators Charlie Clary and Rudy Garcia also threw their support behind the effort. State Department of Transportation Secretary Jose Abreu was also present.

Last week, CFO Gallagher teamed up with Governor Bush to support both a legislative and grassroots effort to give Floridians the opportunity to repeal a high-speed rail.  Over the next 51 days, Bush, Gallagher and state lawmakers will pursue passage of a joint legislative resolution to place a constitutional amendment on the 2004 ballot repealing the high-speed rail initiative. Lawmakers need a three-fifths supermajority to place the amendment on the ballot.

“I applaud the leadership of lawmakers standing with me today who are also gravely concerned with 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,” said CFO Gallagher.  “In the face of mounting evidence, diverting billions of taxpayer dollars to implement a high-speed rail is simply unconscionable.”

“People aren't having trouble getting from Miami to Orlando.  They are having trouble with traffic congestion while they are in Miami and while they are in Orlando,” said Sen. Klein. “These funds should be focused on regional transportation solutions that we need to improve the day-to-day lives of our residents.”

“Florida taxpayers were sold a false bill of goods,” said Rep. Allen, who is sponsoring the joint resolution.  “We were all told about this utopian transportation system, but never of its cost.”

“I have serious concerns that taxpayers are being asked to pay for a project that should be largely funded by the private sector,” said Rep. Bense.   

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.  

In November 2002, the High Speed Rail Authority conducted a ridership study and subsequently commissioned a Peer Review Panel to perform an independent assessment of the study. Upon conclusion of its assessment, the panel did not endorse the ridership study citing questionable ridership projections, negligible time savings for travelers and lack of flexibility in transportation once arriving at the station.

“The lack of endorsement by the Peer Review Panel raises serious doubts that the state can secure financing from the investment community backed solely by ridership revenue,” said Rep. Gardiner, who chairs the Transportation Systems Subcommittee.  “Without a sound investment grade report, the state will have no choice but to back financing of the project with state funding.”

According to the High Speed Rail Authority, with no guarantee of federal funding and a lack of funding from the private sector, Florida taxpayers are facing at least a $140 million price tag annually for the next 30 years just to build the first rail segment.

“Implementing a project of this magnitude will come at a great cost to Florida taxpayers and could negatively impact the current and ongoing transportation needs of our state,” said Sen. Garcia. “There is simply not enough room in the state’s transportation budget to implement both a high-speed rail and long-standing and critical transportation projects.”

“Building just the first phase means that Floridians will do without highway and roadway improvements such as those planned for 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,” said Secretary Abreu.  “These are transportation projects with known benefits. High-speed rail is an unknown.”  

Other sample projects in the state department of Transportation’s Five-Year Work Program that would be in jeopardy if high-speed rail is implemented are attached.

            “High-speed rail would focus our transportation funding on a losing proposition,” said Rep. Reagan, who recently learned from the California High Speed Rail Authority that their state’s rail project is now running 50 percent higher than the original bid price.  “Florida cannot afford to misuse any of our transportation dollars.”

            Absent any action by the Legislature, CFO Gallagher will push for a citizen petition drive to collect more than 489,000 signatures to get an amendment to repeal the rail on the November ballot. To accomplish this, Gallagher is chairing the Derail the Bullet Train (DEBT) Committee - a committee formed to educate Floridians on the escalating costs and financial ramifications of building a high-speed rail with taxpayer dollars. 

In response to inquiries from interested citizens, DEBT launched a website last Friday - - where citizens can download a petition form to support repeal of the high-speed rail. 

Roadways and Highways

Brevard County:  Addition of lanes and rehabilitation of pavement of I-95 from SR 518 to SR 519 to improve a key evacuation route for all of South Florida.

Reconstruction of CR 516 from Knecht Rd. to RJ Conlan Blvd. - to improve safety and decrease congestion.

Broward County:  New road construction from Andrews Avenue exit from Bridge over CSX railroad and roadway approaches - a new connector to relieve congestion.

Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR7/US 441 from north of Hallandale Beach to Funston Street - needed capacity to ease congestion and a drainage system to alleviate flooding problems.

Addition of lanes and reconstruction of CR 818/Griffin Road from SR 93/I-75 west of Flamingo/124th Avenue - needed capacity to ease congestion.

Collier County:  Addition of lanes and reconstruction of I-75 from Golden Gate Parkway to south of Bonita Beach Road - a major north-south artery for Southwest Florida.

Dade County:    Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR 826/Palmetto Expressway from SW 32nd Street to SW 16th Street - to reduce congestion and help traffic flow.

Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR 25/Okeechobee Road from east of W. 12th Avenue to west of 19th Street - to alleviate traffic congestion.

New road - NW 87th Avenue from 58th Street to NW 74th Street - to accommodate fast-growing communities in Doral and Hialeah Gardens.

Duval County:  Improvements to I-10/I-95/Myrtle Avenue to relieve congestion and address safety issues.

Addition of lanes and new pavement from I-95 from Heckscher Drive to I-295/SR 9-A - a Gateway project to ease congestion and improve interstate travel.

Escambia and Santa Rosa counties: Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR 87 from north of Five Forks Road to Eglin Air Force Base - a key evacuation route, needed to alleviate congestion.

Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR 281/Avalon Boulevard from North of CSX Railroad Bridge to SR 10 - to ease congestion and provide infrastructure for growing communities.

Hillsborough County:  Addition of lanes and reconstruction of I-275, improving key access to Tampa International Airport.

Reconstruction of I-75 from Fowler Ave. to CR 581 - to decrease congestion in a statewide economic development corridor.

Acquisition of RW I-4 Selmon Expressway from 7th Ave. to I-4 - to ensure the preservation of a key shipping route to the Port of Tampa.

Manatee and Sarasota counties:  Reconstruction of US 301 to improve crucial inter-county link.

Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties:  Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR 520 to west end of SR 528 to east of CR 532 - a key evacuation route.

Construction of a major interchange at I-4 and East-West Expressway - to alleviate most congested interchange in metro Orlando.

Addition of lanes and new pavement on SR 50 from west of SR 436 to west of SR 417 Greenway - a key commuter route with major congestion.

Palm Beach County:  Additions to SR 710/Beeline Hwy. to increase capacity and improve safety.

Reconstruction of I-95 from PGA Blvd. to Donald Ross Rd., adding capacity to roadway in vicinity of SCRIPPS development.

Pasco County:  Addition of lanes to SR 52 from Moon Lake Rd. to Suncoast Pkwy, decreasing congestion in an evacuation route.

Pinellas County:  Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR 688 from 119th St. to Long Branch Canal, reducing severe congestion in a major east-west connector and evacuation route.

Reconstruct SR 55 (US 19) from 49th St. to 126 Ave. N. - to decrease congestion in a regionally significant roadway.

St. Lucie and Martin Counties:  Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR 5/US1 from Rio Mar Drive to North of Midway Road - needed capacity to ease overcrowded roadway.

Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR 70 from west of Header to McCarty Road - to ease congestion and add capacity to SIS roadway.

Volusia County:  Addition of lanes and new pavement of I-4 from Saxon Boulevard Interchange to SR 472 - a key commuter route from Volusia to Metro Orlando.

Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR 40 from Cone Road to West Tymber Creek - a key evacuation route.

Source:  Florida Department of Transportation’s Five-Year Work Plan (as of February 2004)



More than 1.7 million children covered by state, double the amount since 1998.

Governor Jeb Bush, on March signed KidCare legislation that will provide health care coverage to more than 90,000 additional children, ending the state’s current waiting list. The bill contains $25.2 million in state and federal funding, as well as provisions to ensure the program continues to serve the largest number of children for the longest period of time.

"Once this legislation is signed, letters will be sent to parents throughout the state telling them their children will now be covered under KidCare. I thank the Legislature for moving quickly to pass this bill, and for instituting thoughtful reforms that will ensure the program can continue to help Florida’s children," said Governor Bush. "This bill brings important discipline to a program that helps children who have no other health care options because they don’t have access to insurance coverage."

SB 2000 provides more accountability, greater fraud prevention and brings the program more in line with private insurance enrollment provisions. It also ensures KidCare recipients have access to dental services and removes the per year cap on benefits.

"I applaud Governor Bush and legislative leaders for their continued commitment to improving children's access to health care and to sustaining the financial viability and success of Florida's KidCare programs," said CFO Tom Gallagher. "Providing life-sustaining health care to the children of families struggling to make ends meet is one of the best investments we can make."

"With the signing of this bill, we are sending a message that taking care of Florida's children is of paramount importance," said Senate President Jim King. "By our quick action, we are now able to provide health insurance to more than 90,000 children - an accomplishment that should make all Floridians proud. I thank the bill sponsors in the Senate, Senators Peaden and Dockery, for their hard work and dedication to this issue, and look forward to many more good bills coming out of this legislative session."

"The KidCare Program will serve as a vital safety net for thousands of children who desperately need to be able to see a doctor," said House Speaker Johnnie Byrd.

This compassionate program not only meets the needs of these children, but it ensures that the program will remain solvent in the future. It is a great Republican program."

Among the bill’s reforms:

      Eligibility and Fraud Provisions: Children with access to employer-sponsored coverage will be eligible for the program if the cost of coverage is more than five percent of family income, and all candidates must provide proof of income and employer-sponsored health benefit status during application process. Individuals who defraud or attempt to defraud the KidCare program during eligibility determination are subject to prosecution according to the state assistance fraud statute.

      Enrollment Periods: The bill provides for open enrollment periods similar to those available to purchasers of private health insurance. The periods will be announced in August and December, and are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Medicaid-eligible children can enroll in that component of the KidCare program at any time. Sick children eligible for Children’s Medical Services will be enrolled on an emergency basis outside the enrollment period, within the KidCare appropriation.

      Accountability: SB 2000 calls on the Auditor General to recommend mechanisms to prevent ineligible children from enrolling and to periodically audit the program. OPPAGA is also required to study premiums and report back to the Legislature on its findings.

The Governor was joined at the bill signing by CFO Tom Gallagher, Senate President Jim King, Senator Nancy Argenziano, Senator Mike Fasano, Senator Durell Peaden, Representative Bruce Kyle, Representative Rafael Arza, Representative Frank Farkas, Representative Carole Green, Representative Ed Homan, Representative Stan Mayfield, Representative Sandra L. Murman, Representative Marco Rubio and Representative Joseph R. Spratt. Also joining the Governor were Rose Naff of Healthy Kids and Department of Health Secretary Dr. John Agwunobi.



The Governor and Cabinet, acting as the Administration Commission, signaled a new direction in approaching responsible growth management at the March 9th Cabinet meeting in Tallahassee. 

While maintaining the critical state concern designation established in 1986, CFO Tom Gallagher, Agricultural Commissioner Charlie Bronson, Attorney General Charlie Crist, and Governor Bush unanimously agreed to consider a partnership approach in resolving the outstanding land acquisition, affordable housing, and wastewater concerns that dominate the Florida Keys. 

This partnership will encompass a focused approach to land acquisition, similar to the success achieved in acquiring land for Everglades restoration.  The Governor and Cabinet authorized offering up to 125 percent of the 1986 appraised value to acquire environmentally-sensitive land to relieve development pressures in the Keys.  They also approved the use of rate of growth ordinance (ROGO) credits unused in previous years to accelerate affordable housing developments. 

In addition, the commitments established for addressing wastewater concerns in Florida Keys are unprecedented.  In total, contributions from the State of Florida matched with the contributions of Monroe County, the Village of Islamorada, and the City of Marathon will approach approximately $300 million. 

The March 9th decision initiates the rulemaking process, which will elicit public input prior to the development of a draft proposed rule.  The development of the draft rule will be followed by additional public hearings prior to the adoption of the final rule outlining specific steps to accomplish compliance with the Area of Critical Concern designation.



Last week, more than 2,000 students, teachers and parents gathered near the steps of Florida’s Old Capitol in a huge demonstration of support for school choice programs.  State leaders, including Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, praised those attending and promised to continue their support of vouchers for low-income families, disabled children and students trapped in failing schools.

“The results of education reforms enacted in 2000 speak for themselves,” Gallagher said.  “We’ve seen the number of ‘A’ schools grow five-fold and witnessed a 10 percent increase in the number of fourth graders reading on grade level.”

Gallagher, who served as Education Commissioner from 1998-2000, previously helped to guide school choice reform from a revolutionary idea to implementation of early programs.    He has also been instrumental in ensuring the programs continued success in his current role as Chief Financial Officer.  To guarantee the future financial viability, Gallagher’s office conducted a series of audits of Florida’s school choice programs, resulting in valuable recommendations to education leaders and lawmakers. 

“Just as we hold Florida’s students to high standards, we must hold government to the same standards,” Gallagher said.

According to Gallagher, in order for these valuable programs to continue to provide educational opportunities to thousands of children, many of whom are at-risk students, strong oversight, proper safeguards and financial accountability must be put in place. 

“These vital programs must be protected,” said Gallagher.  “They empower parents to seek educational opportunities for their children which were previously not available.”

Lorri Westphal, a Tampa mother who attended the rally, told the Tampa Tribune that, “Without these scholarships, this kid (14 year-old son Gregory) would have been a statistic.  There’s no doubt in my mind, he would have served jail time.”


Florida Department of Financial Services'
Consumer Services HelpLine