1. Pasco

That $91.1 billion state budget doesn't include so much for Pasco County

Florida's record-setting state budget for the coming year won't be setting a record in Pasco County.

The $91.1 billion budget approved by the Legislature includes $7.65 million for four local budget requests — two each from Pasco County and the city of Dade City — plus $1.635 million for a charter school and three social service agencies.

The dollar figure pales to the local haul a year ago when legislators earmarked more than $36 million for Pasco-specific spending, including $15 million for a new Interstate 75 interchange at Overpass Road.

A year ago, however, the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives was then-Rep. Richard Corcoran of Land O' Lakes. The county had no such high-level influence in the House this year and lacked a full delegation with a seat left vacant by the resignation of Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, who is now chief of the state Department of Veterans Affairs.

"It was not a good year, and I told everybody it wasn't going to be a good year,'' Pasco County's lobbyist Ralph Lair said, pointing to the state's focus on aiding the Panhandle areas battered by Hurricane Michael last fall.

Still, this year's more modest appropriations brought gratitude among local officials. The projects include: $5 million to extend Morningside Drive in Dade City; $1 million for a redevelopment plan for Land O' Lakes Boulevard (U.S. 41) in central Pasco; $1 million for the Miller's Bayou waterfront to design and build a pedestrian path beneath U.S. 19 at the Pithlachascotee River; and $150,000 for a stormwater pump station on Howard Avenue in Dade City.

Additionally, the budget includes $650,000 to expand the Academy at the Farm charter school; $485,000 for BayCare Behavioral Health veterans intervention program; $250,000 for Youth and Family Alternatives youth shelters; and $250,000 for Veterans Alternative's wellness program.

Recurring appropriations included $2.3 million for Pasco Hernando State College's STEM program and $36,000 for the Pasco Association for Challenged Kids summer camp.

The state fiscal year begins July 1 and the spending still must pass muster with Gov. Ron DeSantis. The largest local appropriation, money for Morningside Drive, was vetoed a year ago by then-Gov. Rick Scott.

Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Hudson, said she was pleased overall with the local appropriations and was particularly happy with money for the pedestrian walkway at Miller's Bayou.

"I think the economic impact on the businesses there will be huge, and it will save pedestrian lives because they won't have to try to cross U.S. 19,'' she said.

Pasco Commissioner Mike Moore was happy that the U.S. 41 redevelopment money made it into the Legislature's budget. He credited Rep. Ardian Zika, R-Land O' Lakes, for guiding the project through the appropriation process. The end product, Moore said, should help businesses there and provide aesthetic enhancements in a corridor that had become so unsightly that it provoked new county controls on commercial blight.

Some notable spending initiatives that didn't make it into the budget included the plan from Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, for a $30 million multipurpose events center, Mariano's pitch for $5 million to expand Arthur E. Engle Memorial Park in Hudson and the county's request for help on stormwater drainage projects.

"We've done pretty well over the past few years,'' said Moore. "We'll just go back next year and give it a shot again.''

Staff writer Jeffrey S. Solochek contributed to this report

Contact C.T. Bowen at or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.