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Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Crist Confidante Looks to Benefit from Connections

Don’t let the state’s budget crisis fool you. There is still room in the budget to reward loyal supporters, or at least that’s what State Senator Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) is worried about. Gaetz has raised objections to Steve Quello, a Crist confidante who helped write the Governor’s legislative proposal to help small businesses, being allowed to bid on a portion of the $10 million initiative, which was discretely tucked into the budget that slashed social services.

Steve Quello, an economic development consultant and president of Winter Park-based CEO Nexus, worked closely with Dale Brill, Crist’s head of the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development, to create an “economic gardening” proposal approved by both the House and Senate last week, according to documents obtained by The Palm Beach Post.

The $10 million program, tucked into the budget that lawmakers are slated to approve on Wednesday, includes $8.5 million in loans to businesses with 10 to 99 employees and a $1.5 million contract for “technical services,” which Quello said he is interested in.

Sen. Don Gaetz, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Florida’s Economy, said Quello is “the last Floridian who could ever participate in this project” regardless of his qualifications.

“We’re in a place right now in politics in this country and in this state where we can’t afford to have people look at what we’re doing and just instinctively grab their noses. If ever public officials have to be conscious of perception, it’s now,” said Gaetz, R-Niceville. [Palm Beach Post]

As it turns out, Dale Brill—with whom Gaetz crafted the plan—will make the decision on hiring a vendor. Budget crisis or not, in politics, things rarely change.

Update: Florida’s CFO, Alex Sink, has blasted the plan, which will only benefit 34 companies. She expressed outrage that the state will pay $1.5 million to monitor a program for such a small group. The story can be found here.

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Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , ,

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