Questionable Government Programs: The Florida Turtle Tunnel
The economic stimulus program was introduced by the government in 2009. The aim was to help the economy recover from the recession (Turnham & Boudreau, 2009). Whereas the $1 trillion Obama administration’s plan was hailed as a step in the right direction, it has been criticized by many as a wasteful program. Some of the projects funded through the program are ridiculous. An example is the $1.3 million project for highway signs (Turnham & Boudreau, 2009). However, what caught my attention was the turtle tunnel in Florida. About $3.4 million was spent to help the reptiles cross the busy Highway 27 in Tallahassee.
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The Turtle Tunnel: Real or Fake?
When the lady in the video podcast said that the $3.4 million stimulus package was used to build a tunnel for workers in Florida, I believed her (Bankrupting America: REAL or FAKE, 2010). However, I could not believe it when she said that the money was used to build a tunnel to help turtles cross the road.
In my opinion, the tunnel program did little to ‘stimulate’ the economy. The government spent taxpayers’ money just for the sake of it (Bankrupting America: REAL or FAKE, 2010). Dr. Matt Aresco, the person in charge of the program, may not agree with me. However, I could tell from their facial expressions that the people in the video were also shocked.
There might have been potential merits for funding the tunnel. One of them entails conserving the environment (Turnham & Boudreau, 2009). Besides, the project will improve the safety of motorists. However, despite these ‘merits’, I still feel that this is not the kind of program that should be funded from taxpayers’ money. Perhaps an environmental lobby group would have been better placed to make Dr. Aresco’s dream become a reality.
The Link between Public Budgeting and Politics
Public budgeting involves several stakeholders (Rubin, 2013). They include, among others, the government, local politicians, and the public. As the two current events highlighted indicate, the opinions and interests of these groups affect the entire budgeting process.
Public Participation in Montgomery County
Auditors identified serious budgetary issues in the county’s accounts (Montgomery County, 2016). One of them was the lack of public participation in the budgeting process. Uri Monson, the new Chief Finance Officer of the county, sought to rectify this problem. One of the ways he did this was to OpenGov Intelligence. Among others, the software was meant to improve public participation in the budgeting process (Montgomery County, 2016). The government started using the program in 2014.
In unit 1, we learned about the variety of stakeholders that can influence the allocation of resources during the budgeting process (Rubin, 2013). The public is one of the parties identified. As such, the acquisition of OpenGov by Montgomery County is relevant to this course. Public participation is enhanced by posting the county’s budgetary estimates on OpenGov.
Budgeting in South Australia: The War between the Government and the Opposition
The ABC News accessed a document published by the opposition relating to a stimulus package (Harmsen, 2016). The package was aimed at alleviating the problem of unemployment by creating new jobs in the country. The opposition official in charge of the program had proposed a $10 million scheme (Harmsen, 2016). However, the government increased the stimulus package to $109 million (Harmsen, 2016). In effect, the authorities appeared to have overshadowed the opposition.
The case above shows that politics have a significant impact on a country’s budgeting process (Rubin, 2013). In Unit 2, we learned how different agencies compete with each other about public budgets. In the scenario above, the competition between the opposition and the government is apparent. One may be tempted to conclude that the government increased its allocation to the stimulus program after learning about the proposals made by the opposition.
Bankrupting America: REAL or FAKE: Can you tell which of these government spending projects are real or fake?. (2010). [Video podcast]. Web.
Harmsen, N. (2016). Document leak shows SA opposition considered less generous jobs scheme than government. Web.
Rubin, S. (2013). The politics of public budgeting: Getting and spending, borrowing and balancing (7th ed.). New York: CQ Press.
Turnham, S., & Boudreau, A. (2009). $3.4 million stimulus project to protect turtles called wasteful. Web.