An Interesting Comment from Bill Galvano

At the tend of today’s Tampa Tribune article on the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority there was an interesting comment.

First, some background.

The Authority was the product of the Tampa Bay Partnership working with former State Senator Jim Sebesta and State Reprsentative Bill Galvano. It brings a number of counties and cities together to work toward a more unified vision of transit and transportation in the Bay Area.

I love the idea.

This year, the Legislature passed the bill to create the Authority and included a measly $1 million – that’s less than 1/7000th of the state’s budget – for the initial startup costs (staffing, office space, furniture and equipment, etc).

Governor Crist vetoed the funding because it came from the wrong pool of money.

So what are they to do?

Beg for help from the DOT and community — sure sure. The DOT can help provide some minimal staff support, arranging meetings and doing some preliminary planning. And perhaps local comapnies could provide some pro-bono legal advice and free office space. Not bad things considering the overall goal.

Still, they are going to need more help than donations can provide, if they are to do their jobs right. They can ask Governor Crist for some funding, to be approved by the Legislative Budget Commission, from another pool of money. But that may not be enough or even successful.

So, where do they turn? Where did other local authorities get their start up costs?

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

If Galvano doesn’t succeed, he said, he will turn to local governments in areas covered by the authority – Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties – and ask them to pitch in.

So, the same local governments that are laying off staff, reducing funding to community groups, putting off plans to build new rec centers or parks, stretching their pothole and code enforcement budgets are then going to find a little cash for a project that isn’t even theirs?

The real question will be how fast can they tell him where to stick TBARTA?

About Jim Johnson

Editor and publisher of The State of Sunshine.
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3 Responses to An Interesting Comment from Bill Galvano

  1. Pingback: Sticks of Fire: a Tampa blog » Blog Archive » fat chance in lean times

  2. Ben says:

    “A project that isn’t even theirs?” I disagree: The proposed regional transportation authority is a solution that isn’t even theirs. Local governments could not work together to form the authority, so the private sector stepped in. And from the looks of it, they will have to continue to step in until the municipalities involved actually realize that its a Good Idea: Long term planning that includes a multimodal system works. Besides, most counties in the area do not build roads anymore- those same private sector companies that support the authority do, as the price of playing the development game. They recognize the problem, and have an idea of how to solve it.

    In response to your second to last question: They better. Of the top 25 Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the US, there are only two that do not have mass transit: Tampa/St. Pete/Clearwater, and, you guessed it, the dying Motor City of Detroit. In fact, according to the Surface Transportation Policy Project, in 2001, residents of the Tampa/St. Pete MSA spent 24.6% of their household budget on transportation. That is the largest percentage of any other MSA in the United States. Every other MSA in the top 25 has recognized that a multimodal approach to transportation is a viable way to address current and future tranportation problems, and by extension, housing affordability, as the two are very much linked. And as we all know, as property values rise, the cost of obtaining the land for transportation corridors rise with it. It seems that those other MSAs have recognized what traffic engineers have long known: if you want to increase capacity of a form of transportation, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to increase the frequence of a train (or buy more cars) than it is to expand a road (and buy all of the right of way) or build an elevated deck. There are always choices when it comes to expenditures; This is one choice that local governments must make – to refuse now will only serve to push the problem on future generations, and by that time, it will be much bigger.

    As far as the property tax issue is concerned, I agree that there will have to be cuts in services at the local level- you cannot cut taxes and maintain the same level of service, but perhaps this is the time for each local government to sift thru all of the pork that has accumulated over the past three years due to the windfall of property taxes, and throw out the stuff that’s rotten. It is also a time to review the experiment that is Save Our Homes, a prime example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

  3. Jim Johnson says:

    Ben,

    I have to tell you – I support TBARTA… I am a proponent of light rail and making changes now to promote long-term viability of our transportation infrastructure.

    But to ask local governments to fund it while at the same time telling them to cut services is, well, not really fair (to put it mildly).

    To be sure, Hillsborough County has two as-yet-untapped resources available for transportation: a five cent gas tax and the Charter County Transit Surtax (1 cent sales tax). They have chosen to implement neither tax, but either could be a source of funds for the Hillsborough portion of TBARTA without dipping into existing funds.

    However, few of the remaining counties have these options. How will the Cities of Tampa, Clearwater, or St. Petersburg fund their portions? or the other cities and counties?

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