Pasco wants more state funding

Pasco County commissioners have approved a list of local priorities for the 2017 legislative session, seeking to add state funds to the county’s coffers.

Commissioners want more state money for road construction, storm water improvements, efforts to fight blight and help the homeless population, and other projects.

The list of county priorities is expected to be presented to the local legislative delegation before the next session begins on March 7.

Members of the public also will have a chance to let the delegation know their priorities at a delegation meeting on Jan. 18 at Sunlake High School in Land O’ Lakes.

Members of Pasco County’s legislative delegation are Rep. Richard Corcoran, who will serve as speaker of the house; Rep. Amber Mariano; Rep. Danny Burgess; Sen. Wilton Simpson; Sen. Jack Latvala; and, Sen. Tom Lee.

The local delegation meeting is held each year before the Florida Legislature convenes. Committee meetings in advance of the 2017 session began in early December.

About 100 people attended last year’s delegation meeting, with individuals and organizations pitching for projects or legislative bills.

The Pasco County Commission’s priority list includes:

  • $15 million in state money for the Interstate 75 at Overpass Road/New Interstate Interchange
  • $1 million for a “navigation center” for the homeless population, with a focus on shelter, jobs and education
  • $2.5 million for stormwater mitigation through culvert repairs
  • $5 million revolving loan for the Pasco Prosperity Program to help small business owners in blighted areas along corridors such as U.S. 19, U.S. 41 and U.S. 301.

Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said the prosperity program can help business owners spruce up their properties with upgraded signage, landscaping or “whatever it takes.”

Owners sometimes don’t have the funds to make improvements to their businesses, Starkey said. “I’m trying to give the small business owner a leg up. I see this as a key. I hope we can get this done,” she said.
Requests that make it into the state’s budget will be scrutinized by Gov. Rick Scott, who can use his line item veto to slash specific projects.

Last year, Scott cut about $256 million in local requests statewide from a budget of about $82 billion. Pasco had winners and losers.

Among the winners was the STEM aeronautics academy at Sunlake High School and other locations, with $750,000 in state funds; and, the Baldomero Lopez State Veterans Nursing Home in Land O’ Lakes, with $450,000. The county also got $400,000 for a storm water project.

But, Scott also eliminated an $11 million request for a proposed performing arts center at Pasco-Hernando State College.

Those who lobby on behalf of Pasco budget requests are likely to face challenges.

Estimates for the next state budget show a potential shortfall of about $3 billion.

“It’s going to be tough this year,” predicted Ralph Lair, the county’s governmental affairs officer.

What: Legislative delegation meeting, open to the public
When: Jan. 18 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Sunlake High School, 3023 Sunlake Blvd., Land O’ Lakes
Signup: If you want to speak at the meeting, complete an e-form by following the link – The deadline for submissions is Jan. 16.

Revised Jan. 4, 2017

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