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Governor kills two Pinellas projects, others survive veto pen

Clearwater's Marine Museum won big. As did the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg.

Each of them secured about a million dollars in state funding in next year's budget and dodged the threat of Gov. Rick Scott's veto pen. On Monday, the governor's office released a list of the projects that were less fortunate.

Rep. Darryl Rouson, whose district includes much of South St. Petersburg, had earmarked $78,750 for renovations to the Fannye Ponder House, a historic site that serves as the home of the National Council of Negro Women's St. Petersburg chapter. An architect had looked at the property, Rouson said, and estimated how much it would cost to bring it up to code.

"The money was like to the penny, there was no waste involved," he said.

Perhaps it was the fact that Florida TaxWatch had urged Scott to veto the project, or the fact that Rouson's wife is the president of the city's chapter — either way, the renovations were axed in the end.

The governor also vetoed another of Rouson's spending proposals — $150,000 for a jobs development program run by the Pinellas Ex-Offender Re-entry Coalition, a 12-person nonprofit that tries to prevent people from cycling in and out of jail. The organization's executive director Michael Jalazo said the money would have allowed the group to hire a few more case workers and focus on finding ex-offenders jobs.

"The biggest need these people have is employment," Jalazo said. "I saw Rouson last week and he thought were ok, but I guess not."

Rouson seemed equally baffled.

"Why wouldn't you empower an ex-offender to create, look for, and enhance employment opportunities for other ex-offenders?" he said. "It's a public safety matter...and it's about putting people to work."

A plan to build a 275-mile bike trail from St. Petersburg to Titusville also died during the veto process. Its construction would have cost $50 million.

Sen. Jack Latvala's request that the state spend $200,000 on a consolidation study of the Pinellas and Hillsborough transit agencies made it out alive, but officials in Hillsborough would rather it hadn't. The board of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit system has repeatedly voiced its objections to discussing consolidation with the Pinellas agency, calling Latvala's intervention a power grab and citing concern that the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is underfunded.

And Rouson said that several of his projects had also gone through, including $5 million for the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg College of Business building.

Governor kills two Pinellas projects, others survive veto pen 05/20/13 [Last modified: Monday, May 20, 2013 6:03pm]
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