Juan Zapata

Lawmaker: State's treasure could ease budget mess

By Marc Caputo

A Miami legislator asks how many millions the state could earn by selling shipwreck treasure to fill holes in the state budget.

As legislators scramble for cash in the worst budget crisis they've ever faced, tens of millions of dollars in treasure lies just within their reach outside the Capitol.

This is real treasure - The kind hauled up from sunken Spanish ships.

The state has one of the world's largest publicly owned collections of colonial Spanish doubloons and reales, as well as a few gold and silver ingots and chains.

Much of it lies safe and hidden in a vault, known only to a few, and occasionally loaned out to museums around the country.

But now Rep. Juan Zapata of Miami wants to crack it open and sell a little treasure to help fill some holes in the proposed $66 billion budget, which is more than $4 billion smaller than this year's spending plan.

And the Republican is accusing the Florida secretary of state's office of throwing him off the scent and hiding the booty.