Money to track cows is cut out
By ANITA KUMAR, Times Staff Writer
TALLAHASSEE -- Governments often use sophisticated technology to track weapons, airplanes and hurricanes. But the governor wants to use it to track cows, horses and hogs.
It's part his plan to fight bio-terrorism.
Gov. Jeb Bush wants to spend $250,000 for a global positioning system to track livestock, including 3-million cows and 500,000 horses. That way officials could easily identify and then minimize the outbreak of animal diseases that bio-terrorists might release in Florida.
"Bio-terrorism experts predict introduction of animal disease as a likely event," the governor's budget says. "To combat that, Florida will need to know the precise locations of all livestock . . ."
Some state senators, however, don't buy it, and said so by cutting the money to track farm animals.
"I'm sure we need to know where the cows all are but once they become burgers are we going to follow them to their final repose?" asked Sen. Rod Smith, D-Gainesville.
Members of a Senate security committee questionned whether the governor is using the Sept. 11 to fund expensive projects that have little to do with terrorism.
"It seems to me that . . . you just put terrorism in front of your budget request and it becomes a priority item," said Sen. Skip Campbell, D-Tamarac, when he heard the proposals.
The Select Committee on Public Security and Crisis Management, created after the terrorist attacks, recommends cutting more than $5-million of the $45-million in state and federal money Bush wants to devote to security.
"I had trouble keeping a straight face," Sen. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville and the committee chairwoman, said after hearing budget proposals. "I don't think in a tight budget year that we can go home and not have somebody laugh in our face."
Some of the cuts include $500,000 for family preparedness handbooks, $129,000 to create a private group to raise money, and $500,000 to put photos and fingerprints of people applying for driver's licenses together for police to search for terrorists and criminals.
Also dumped: the $250,000 to track livestock.
"We're in a very tight budget year," Smith said. "I just hope that everyone understands that this is not an open invitation in this budget."
The committee first heard budget details during a heated meeting last week, where senators grilled department leaders and even made an occasional sarcastic quip, some about the GPS system.
"Gee, maybe we can use it to track some missing children, too, in addition to cows," Brown-Waite said.
This week's meeting to prioritize the list of proposals was brief and calm. Members even added one item: a $1.2-million project to help law enforcement search data bases nationwide.
The House security committee has been briefed on the budget but did make recommendations.
Liz Hirst, a Bush spokeswoman, said Thursday the governor was pleased with the programs the senators approved.
"The vast majority of what the governor has proposed . . . is being supported and that is what's important," Hirst said.
-- Times staff writer Lucy Morgan contributed to this report.
© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111
From the Times state desk
From the state wire