Initially, things were looking pretty bleak on the state fiscal front — before the last session of the Florida Legislature.
Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey recalled some previous remarks from the county’s state lobbyist, Shawn Foster, of Sunrise Consulting.
“Before session started, you were like: ‘This is going to be a really bad session. We’re going to be billions of dollars in the hole,’” Starkey said, during the Pasco County Commission’s June 22 meeting.
Foster said that was before the dollars that came in from the America Rescue Act.
Nearly 10% of the state’s $101.5 billion came from the federal government, Foster said.
“If it had not been for that $10 billion that we got from the federal government, there would be no good here. There would be no good,” Foster said.
Without the federal money, he added: “There would be none of these projects on here, none of these other big grants.”
Instead, “the state took $7 billion of the American Rescue Act and implemented it into this year and held off another $3 billion for the next budget,” Foster said.
Instead of being decimated, the statewide budget includes:
- $1 billion for community substance abuse and mental health
- $3.2 million for homeless program challenge grants
- $500 million for the Resilient Florida Trust Fund and programs
- $626 million for septic to sewer and stormwater improvements
- $146.7 million for the State Housing Initiative Partnership program
- $74 million for the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, including $24 million from last year
- $1.5 billion in the Emergency Rental Assistance Program
The county can apply directly for funding through the Septic to Sewer/Stormwater Improvement program, Foster said.
“That was our Sen. (Wilton) Simpson’s priority and has been for years. I think it started with an idea a few years ago; it was $50 million. So, to see it up to $626 (million) is amazing.”
The lobbyist also noted that the Emergency Rental Assistance Program is one in which constituents can make direct applications, through OurFlorida.com.
Three Pasco County projects also went through to the governor.
- $6.5 million for the Handcart Road water and wastewater improvements
- $200,000 for the Ackerman Street drainage improvements
- $3,818,208 for the Lindrick sewer and water quality
“The county as a whole, really did well,” said Ralph Lair, the county’s intergovernmental affairs officer.
Other county projects receiving funding were:
- $3 million to extend the runway at Zephyrhills Municipal Airport
- $4,665,000 for the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center in Zephyrhills
- $25 million for a Florida National Guard Armory in Zephyrhills
- $1.25 million for a CARES One-Stop Senior Center in Dade City
- $450,000 for AmSkills Workforce Training
- $25 million for a Pasco-Hernando State College student success and community engagement center in Dade City
- $34,738 for a Pasco Association of Challenged Kids Summer Camp
- $5 million for Metropolitan Ministries to expand its campus in Pasco County
- $700,000 for Bridging Freedom Program in Pasco County
While Commissioner Mike Moore expressed gratitude for this year’s appropriations, he said the county needs to focus on securing funding to address flooding issues in areas such as Quail Hollow and around Eiland Boulevard.
“That needs to be a big focus, going forward,” Moore said. “Those are very important. Those affect our citizens on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said she’d like to follow the Pinellas County Commission’s example of meeting with their county legislative delegation and with their federal legislative delegation.
She wants Pasco to be more proactive in seeking state and federal funding to help address county needs.
Foster expressed optimism about the state’s revenue prospects for next year.
Committee meetings will begin in the fall, and the next session of the legislature is set to start Jan. 11 and end on March 11.
Published July 07, 2021