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Budget plan holds millions for Hillsborough
By DAVID KARP
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2000
TALLAHASSEE -- When Hillsborough's legislators looked inside the state's 429-page budget Tuesday morning, they found millions for projects for the folks back home:
About $25-million to help fund a massive expansion of the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway, $1-million to build a new state appeals court building in downtown Tampa and $1-million to improve roads at the Florida State Fair.
"I thought we had a fabulous year," said state Rep. Sandy Murman, R-Tampa, who got two of her top projects into the budget. "One of the best I can remember."
The printing of the state budget doesn't mean everything is final yet. The Legislature must wait three days, and then it will vote up or down on the entire $50-billion package. After that, the budget goes to Gov. Jeb Bush, who has promised to veto "turkeys" that don't have a statewide impact.
But for now, legislators can look at what they consider a list of the state's priorities for spending taxpayers' dollars. The projects for Hillsborough's legislators also show who has political clout -- and who doesn't.
Tampa General Hospital got a package worth $23-million, which the county's legislators touted at a bipartisan news conference. Murman hugged the hospital's lobbyists and said the package had taken a lot of "blood, sweat and tears."
"It's a great day," she said.
Murman also got $500,000 to put a health aide or nurse in every high school in Hillsborough County. Right now, nurses are spread too thin across several schools, Murman said.
The state's budget also set aside $233,333 for the trauma center at St. Joseph's Hospital. And it reserved $1.5-million to demolish the W.T. Edwards state building by Legends Fields, the spring training facility for the New York Yankees.
State Rep. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, got $1.25-million to fund programs at the new USF Area Community Center. Crist didn't want to talk about the appropriation, though, until the governor approved it. He was afraid media attention would bring bad luck.
There was $350,000 to renovate the farmers market in Plant City, $85,000 for researchers at the University of South Florida to study scallops in Tampa Bay and $500,000 to build a floor at a new building for the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay Inc.
Mayor Dick Greco got $507,500 to plan a new leg of the planned downtown electric trolley, which will run from the new Marriott Waterside hotel in downtown Tampa to Ybor City. The money in the budget would help plan an expansion of the trolley line from the Marriott to the Fort Brooke Parking Garage.
A research company in Tampa got $720,000 to develop technology that could let drivers adjust the tinting on their car windows with the turn of a knob, said state Rep. Chris Hart, R-Tampa, who sponsored the appropriation.
"It is really cutting edge," said Hart, adding that the technology will attract new jobs.
He also got $360,000 to fund a program to help small businesses reduce their energy bills. The money pays for an energy specialist who helps businesses cut their utility bills.
"The economic impact of this is huge," said Irene Hurst, executive director of the Small Business Development Center at USF, which runs the program.
Aside from big winners, the state budget also showed who were the losers: Hart and state Rep. Bob Henriquez, D-West Tampa, both freshman legislators, went after $1.3-million to build a center for senior citizens in Town 'N Country. They ended up with $150,000.
"What kind of commitment is that?" said Joyce Smith, a resident who's been working to fund the center.
Supporters of the old Gandy Bridge Friendship Trail also didn't get all they wanted. They went after $2-million to build walkways for people on the trail to safely cross busy Gandy Boulevard. They got $50,000.