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Jackie Toledo again wants $1.5M to fund TBARTA

The agency was poised to get funding last year, but fell victim to COVID cuts.

Rep. Jackie Toledo, a Tampa Republican, is asking the state for $1.5 million to continue funding the Tampa Bay Regional Transit Authority in the next fiscal year budget.

Toledo filed HB 2037 this week along with an appropriations request for the funding.

It would pay for a nearly $275,000 salary and benefits package for TBARTA Executive Director David Green. It also includes more than $992,000 for additional staff salaries and benefits including technical support, financial administration and oversight, grants management and administration, marketing and public relations, project management and procurement administration.

Another $213,214 would go 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 and $20,000 would be allotted for consultants and contracted services for financial and administrative services, transportation planning, project management, strategic communication, public awareness and marketing.

The requested appropriation is for nonrecurring funds, however, the appropriations request anticipates $3 million to $10 million in funding request over the next five years with funding needs expected beyond five years.

Toledo filed a similar request last year, which was initially included in the state budget but was vetoed as part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ $1.66 billion budget cut, the largest in Florida history. The cuts were needed after the Legislature finalized its proposed budget due to expected economic losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state remains in a tough budget posture this year as economists had projected a 6.1% drop in revenue. That number was later revised up another $1.49 billion to $32.48 billion, —  still sitting far lower than in previous years.

That means local projects will have far less money to go around this year and will make Toledo’s ask a tough get. Lobbyist Ron Pierce with RSA Consulting Group is on the job.

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

TBARTA oversees regional transit planning in the Tampa Bay region. The agency received $4.8 million two years ago including $1.5 million for staffing.

That 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.

The 2019 Legislative Session’s larger funding allocation provided additional money to study or implement new transit technologies, with things like Hyperloop specifically referenced.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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