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Projects for Pasco await Bush's approval -- or veto

The Legislature's final budget includes a number of goodies for Pasco, but they need to evade the governor's pen first.

By RYAN DAVIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2001


The only obstacle between several Pasco County projects and big money is Gov. Jeb Bush's pen.

A list of Pasco programs in line for state money emerged Wednesday from the Legislature. It was supposed to be a year when money for these programs -- best known as pork projects or turkeys -- would be hard to win.

"With that in mind, I'm extremely pleased that we can help our seniors, our disabled and our children of Pasco County," said House Majority Leader Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.

Pasco programs on that list include the New Port Richey Marine Institute, a program for delinquent youths, to build a new education center; the Center for Independence to build more group homes for the developmentally disabled; and Operation PAR to continue operating its drug prevention program for adolescents.

Those three programs stand to receive the most: Operation PAR ($750,000), Center for Independence group homes ($500,000), and Marine Institute ($500,000).

The fate of another program may be the most intriguing, lawmakers said.

For the third consecutive year, funding to begin building a proposed historical park in Land O'Lakes has cleared the Legislature. The fate of $100,000 for Heritage Park Foundation rests in the hands of Bush, who vetoed its money the last two years.

"Pasco County continues to grow," said Joanne Hurley, the president of the park's board of directors. "Everyone is aware of what's happening in central Pasco and I think the need for this project gets greater every year."

Bush can either approve the Legislature's funding for each individual project or he can use his line-item veto power, eliminating a project. For each project, it's all or nothing.

"I would very much expect his veto pen will hit Pasco County in some way," Fasano said.

The projects that sit before the governor emerged from a conference session between House leaders, who had supported several Pasco projects, and Senate leaders, who had supported just one.

The House and Senate will vote -- and as history indicates, approve -- the budget Friday.

Most Pasco projects received the same level of funding suggested by the House, but two suffered cuts. The House had supported $500,000 for CARES to build a new senior center in Bayonet Point. It can now get just half that.

"I was disappointed," said Rep. Heather Fiorentino, R-New Port Richey. "We thought we were going to be able to get it."

Both Fasano and Fiorentino said they will ask for more money next year so the project could be funded in stages, much like the Crescent Theater.

The House had also supported $200,000 to build an emergency hurricane shelter at Port Richey City Hall. It goes to the governor eligible for just $25,000 -- also not enough to complete the project.

Pasco stands to benefit from some statewide and regional projects that also made their way into the final legislative budget.

Expecting approval of a bill creating a new statewide homeless service network, the Legislature approved $10-million to fund social service agencies that aid the homeless.

Some money would be used to build more housing and some for operational expenses. Possibly the most crucial part would be funding that would allow volunteer groups like the Pasco Coalition for the Homeless to hire a paid coordinator.

Other programs before the governor that would benefit Pasco include: Clearwater-based Eckerd Youth Alternatives' youth anger and conflict management program, University of Florida's indigent dental care program, a Pinellas-based program that helps fathers get jobs to pay child support, and a Dade City-based statewide program that trains kids in roadway maintenance.

Pasco projects

The following Pasco County projects are in the final legislative budget released Wednesday. Gov. Jeb Bush can now veto or approve funding for them.

$750,000 to Operation PAR for running adolescent drug abuse prevention program.

$500,000 to Center for Independence to create more group homes for developmentally disabled.

$500,000 to New Port Richey Marine Institute for a new education center.

$250,000 to CARES to build a new senior center in Bayonet Point.

$200,000 to Pasco County Sheriff's Office Kids in Domestic Situations Program for operating expenses.

$125,000 to Pasco Family Protection Team for operating expenses.

$100,000 to Heritage Park Foundation to create historical park.

$100,000 to Boys and Girls Club to run center in Lacoochee.

$25,000 to build emergency hurricane shelter at Port Richey City Hall.

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