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TBARTA iced in Florida budget after unprecedented cuts

The regional transit agency was in line for $1.5M.

The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority will not be receiving the $1.5 million originally approved in the budget to keep its wheels in motion.

Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the funding as part of his $1.66 million cut, the largest ever in Florida history.

Rep. Jackie Toledo filed HB 2483 along with an appropriations request for the funding, which was originally included in the more than $93 million budget.

It would have paid for a nearly $300,000 salary and benefits package for TBARTA Executive Director David Green. It also would have included more than $987,000 for additional staff salaries and benefits including technical support, financial administration and oversight, grants management and administration, marketing and public relations, project management and human resources administration.

Another $213,214 would have gone to expenses for rent and utilities, phone and internet, travel and parking, training, printing and copying, office supplies, postage, office furniture and equipment and various other fees and expenses.

The vetoed funds were meant for “development of institutional, organizational, and management structure needed to plan, implement, and operate mobility improvements and expansions of multimodal transportation options for passengers and freight throughout the designated region.”

Last year was the first time the agency received substantial funding since the Legislature voted to overhaul the agency from a transportation group that provided limited services including a vanpool into a regional planning entity tasked with working across county lines and leading on transit initiatives.

Last year’s larger funding allocation provided additional money to study or implement new transit technologies, with things like Hyperloop specifically referenced.

This year’s allocation would have merely kept the agency staffed and running to complete its regional transit planning mission, which was all the agency asked for.

It’s the second Legislative Session the agency had the benefit of lobbyists working on its behalf.

RSA Consulting and Suskey Consulting helped draw down recurring state funding for the agency’s operations and identify funding for a proposed 42-mile bus rapid transit route connecting downtown St. Petersburg to Wesley Chapel along Interstate 275, one of the agency’s top priorities.

Lobbyists were initially successful, but like other local projects, fell victim to unprecedented budget cuts to accommodate massive state revenue losses associated with the coronavirus economic crisis.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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