In 1977, incoming Senate President Phil Lewis (right) approached Mark Hollis (left), then Vice President of Publix Super Markets, about the business community coming to the Legislature to seek increases in consumer taxes rather than finding ways to hold the line on spending. The challenge “rang a bell” and the idea for a state government watchdog was born.
An organizational meeting convened in Tampa two years later resulted in the formation of the Citizens Council for Budget Research, which five years later was renamed Florida TaxWatch. The founders were Winn-Dixie Chairman J.E. Davis, T. Wayne Davis, Publix Super Markets founder George Jenkins and President Mark Hollis, and Senator Phil Lewis and Senator Ken Plante.
The founders’ vision was to create a citizen-funded, independent public guardian to monitor how taxpayers’ money is spent, root out bureaucratic waste and inefficiency, and serve as a catalyst for positive change while balancing the interests of business, labor, government and citizens. The founders sought to implement their vision by focusing on how the organization could best make independent, research-driven recommendations to encourage state government to be more competitive, productive and accountable.
They understood that spending government tax dollars more wisely means taxes will not have to be raised as deeply or as often, and at times lowered, while improving the quality of essential government services. More than three decades later, the founders’ vision to improve taxpayer value, citizen understanding, and government accountability endures.
Over the past three decades, Florida TaxWatch has become one of the most respected independent government watchdog groups in the country. Florida’s Governors, Cabinet officers, lawmakers, agency heads and state employees listen closely to what TaxWatch has to say in its research reports. TaxWatch recommendations help to shape state laws, constitutional amendments, budgets and new programs. An unrelenting pursuit of better government is the key to TaxWatch’s success.