Budget conference: Senate firm on $106M to develop Moffitt’s Pasco site
Moffitt Cancer Center.

The area around the research facility will be a 'live-work-play community.'

At the end of the first day of budget meetings, the House and Senate have not agreed whether to hand Moffitt Cancer Center and Pasco County $106 million to connect an upcoming 775-acre research campus to the surrounding roadways and community.

The Senate initially requested lawmakers help the county build five connector roads around the new Moffitt site in west-central Pasco County. After House negotiators in the Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations silo kept the funding out of their first budget offer Tuesday morning, the Senate’s held firm in their counteroffer.

The funding would also cover a four-lane road, a pedestrian bridge, and accompanying water, stormwater and wastewater infrastructure.

While the project sponsor is Clearwater Republican Sen. Ed Hooper, whose district includes Pasco County, another Pasco County Republican in the Senate is President Wilton Simpson.

As Senate President, Simpson wields significant influence over the budget writing process.

The spending request is the second-largest local funding request on the Senate side.

The largest is a $125 million proposal to construct a Florida State University and Tallahassee Memorial Hospital health care campus in Panama City Beach — sponsored by Simpson.

The area around the research facility will be a “live-work-play community” with homes, restaurants, retail space, trails and more. The county is asking for help to construct the transportation and infrastructure improvements.

Moffitt Cancer Center Board Chair Tim Adams submitted the funding request, which argues developing the live-work-play community will enhance economic development and job opportunities in Pasco County.

“The construction of the roadways, intersections, overpass, and associated infrastructure is a critical element in providing the opportunities for future job creation and economic development in Pasco County,” according to the funding request. “Additionally the addition of new recreation opportunities will provide an outlet for residents to exercise and be healthy. These outcomes can be evidenced through the increase in jobs, available living spaces, tax base, and available recreational space.”

When development is completed, the project would connect the center to Sunlake Boulevard, Ridge Road and State Road 52.

To help pay for the project, the state would divert $25.6 million in federal COVID-19 funds delivered to Florida for provider relief.

Tuesday marked the first meeting of the Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations silo, which oversees a budget section that could top $16 billion. Negotiators, led by Panama City Republican Sen. George Gainer and Pace Republican Rep. Jayer Williamson, could meet again Tuesday evening, when Senate negotiators would return a counteroffer.

If the House agrees to the funding, it wouldn’t be the first time lawmakers would throw Moffitt Cancer Center a bone under Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican.

A last-minute Senate amendment tucked into last year’s tax package redirected millions of new dollars to support Moffitt Cancer Center by increasing its share of the cigarette tax. Increasing Moffitt’s share of the cigarette tax from 4.4% to 7% through the 2023-24 fiscal year and to 10% from then until 2054 translates to a more than $11 million increase at each step.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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