Thursday, May 24, 2007

Crist Uses Veto Pen to Cut $459,167,584 from Budget: $4,780,000 from Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties

Gov. Charlie Crist used his line item veto pen to cut a record number of projects from the budget. The total of $459,167,584 beat the previous record set by Gov. Jeb Bush by about $10 million.

In that total list of projects (available here), I identified $4,780,000 for projects directly benefitting Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, i.e., not including statewide projects.

While it is always disappointing to see budget items removed that would have benefitted one's home area, including $150,000 for a restoration project for Dunedin's railroad station, I was particularly disappointed to see improved transportation infrastructure take a bit of blow.

Gov. Crist recently signed legislation creating the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority. Legislators agreed to set aside $1 million for the authority to carry out its mission of developing and implementing plans to improve the transportation infrastructure in the greater Tampa Bay area.

Well, one cannot help but notice that exactly $1 million for said Authority was cut by Crist.

While I have mixed feelings about the Authority and am concerned that we could see more toll roads appear, I also know that was need improved transportation infrastructure, including commuter rail, if Tampa Bay is to avoid becoming an Atlanta/Los Angeles-esque traffic nightmare.

Martinez Speaks in Favor of Immigration Reform Bill

Sen. Mel Martinez is likely to see criticism from the right increase. When he was picked to succeed Ken Mehlman as chair of the Republican National Committee, many conservatives were concerned by his (relatively) liberal views on immigration.

Click here for an audio recording of Martinez' comments.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sink Wins Tampa Bay Leadership Award

Florida CFO and Tampa's own Alex Sink received the Tampa Bay United Way's Women’s Leadership award for outstanding service in her community and to the United Way.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bill Young Endorses Anti-Immigrant Candidate for President

Rep. Bill Young endorsed his fellow coastal Republican, Rep. Duncan Hunter (D-CA) for President. Hunter is considered a fringe candidate who is best known for talking how he helped build a fence between Mexico and his San Diego district.

While other prominent, Florida Republicans have endorsed mainstream candidates like Gov. Mitt Romney (seemingly favored by Jeb Bush and officially endorsed by St. Pete mayor Rick Baker), Sen. John McCain (seemingly favored by Crist), and Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Young is alone in endorsing one of the second tier candidates. Rep. Hunter and his fellow presidential contender, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), have been complicating GOP efforts to reach out the latino voters.

Hunter is likely to be succeeded in Congress by his son, much as has been rumored about Young.

Endorsing a far right conservative like Hunter could be another complication for the embattled Young as he campaigns to hold his essentially moderate district.

Recent legislation which would make it easier for sitting members of the legislature to run against members of Congress (originally conceived as a loophole to allow Crist to run for vice-president) means that Young will likely face his stiffest challenge yet, with Rep. Kriseman and Heller and Sen. Justice as favored candidates among current legislators.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Florida's Early Primary a Springboard for a Jeb for President?

While Jeb is still denying presidential aspirations (not that anyone believes him - we just believe he's waiting get some space between himself and his brother's disastrous unpopularity), the Congress Quarterly wonders whether Florida's new, early primary date might tempt him to change course.

He would be virtually guaranteed to win the state in a hypothetical presidential primary and that would instantly be enough to catapult him into the top tier as far as convention delegates are concerned.

Personally, I don't believe it. I do believe he is getting ready to run for president, but that he is waiting until 2012 to run against a President Obama/Clinton/Edwards. He was already a top contender for the nomination - had he jumped in - and this change in the nominating schedule does not change that, nor does it change the dynamics that make a Jeb 2008 victory all but impossible.

Crist To Sign Bill Forming 'Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority'

Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to sign the bill forming the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority.

The authority would have power to plan, develop, finance and build roads, commuter rail service and other transportation facilities in the seven greater Tampa Bay counties: Manatee, Sarasota, Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas.

It would be governed by a board consisting of a county commissioner from each county; the mayors of Bradenton or Sarasota (on an alternating basis), St. Petersburg and Tampa; a representative from a regional metropolitan planning organization group; and four nonelected officials appointed by the governor.

The final would member would be nonvoting member and would be a representative of the Florida Department of Transportation.

Legislators agreed to set aside $1 million for for the authority.

The first responsibility of the authority would be to create a regional master transportation plan by July 2009.

The authority cannot levy taxes, but it can acquire property through eminent domain and sell revenue bonds to pay for toll roads. It can create and operate a mass transit system, establish a fare structure and enter into partnerships with private companies to create transit hubs and park-and-ride facilities.

Rep. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) was a leader in pushing the authority's creation, primarily as a means to develop a proposed cross-state toll road between Manatee and St. Lucie counties.

On a related note, on May 4th, the House passed a sweeping transportation bill that allows private companies to take over control of some existing roads and build planned roads - and charge tolls to pay for them. The Senate passed the legislation on May 3rd.

The bill, which passed 68-49, also makes driving on toll roads in Florida more expensive by allowing tolls to automatically increase each year at the rate of inflation.