by LISA MACNEIL
Hernando Sun Reporter
At the June 25, 2019 regular Board of County Commissioners meeting, State Representative Blaise Ingoglia briefed the board on the recent Legislative Session, which he called “historic.” Ingoglia mentioned infrastructure plans, water quality proposals and a commitment to the environment, which is essential to the county’s economic well-being in the form of tourism.
Ingoglia said toward the end of his specific descriptions, that Hernando County is in a good position for the next legislative session, and also for the next two years. He said to the board, “My biggest ask of you all is if you (recognize) issues to the county, please let our office know, that way we can start bird-dogging (them). We’d rather know sooner than later.
He continued, “The last thing we want to do is go into a legislative session with a ‘hair-on-fire’ issue that we need to solve, and it usually takes a session or two.”
Starting with the good news, Ingoglia listed the items that will receive funding, including the Five-Year DOT Program, $2.5 million for the Good Neighbor Trail connector right-of-way , $4.8 million for the expansion of SR 50 / Cortez Blvd. and the expansion of Highway 98, $2.6 million for the widening of I-75, $66 million for the widening of SR 50 from Windermere to US 98, and SR 50 from US 98 to McKethan.
At Brooksville Tampa Regional Airport (BKV), the lengthening of the main runway will be completed with $1 million of the $4 million originally sought. The “ask” for the Hernando County Airport Water Reclamation Facility was $5 million, however $3 million was appropriated for the project.
“The backstory on that,” Ingoglia explained, “I believe there was a request (from the BOCC) for a subsidy for the Septic to Sewer conversions, and just knowing that wasn’t going to work, we put our energies into something we knew had a better chance of getting funded.”
Ingolia reported that several school board items had been vetoed, but stated he would keep fighting for them. These include $1 million for Hernando Schools Vocational Program, $1 million for Hernando County School Hardening.
An amount of $325,000 for Brooksville Replacement of Fire Trucks and Equipment was also vetoed.
“Some of the highlights in terms of the overall budget and session; we had completed a $91.1 million budget - the highest the state has ever seen. That’s still delivering $400 million worth of tax cuts. It’s historic, but there were a lot of things that needed to be funded long-term. Obviously the commitment to K-12 education, transportation, infrastructure, hurricane recovery, and the commitment for water. We funded $625 million for Everglades restoration, along with some other water initiatives.”
Ingoglia said that while the numbers sound huge, the funding for the water initiatives are small compared to the $40 - 60 billion that will be required to restore the springs alone.
Inogoglia with Representative Bobby Payne authored a bill on wastewater in connection with the Springs Protection Act. He expects the bill to be introduced in the next session.
Commissioner John Allocco commended Ingoglia on his work, and also for his efforts in dealing with unfunded mandates, such as the school hardening item, which was mandated by the state shortly after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida. Allocco also asked Ingoglia to preserve Home Rule in dealing with possible overreach on the part of larger municipalities.
Ingoglia explained that it can seem that the state is intervening at times, but it’s usually because the local government failed to do their part in implementing new legislation.
He went on to say that the school district has received increased funding of $6.7 million, or $79 per student in base funding, that allows the district flexibility in spending. The funding that was vetoed was in excess of the funding required for the state mandates, and that there is money available for the requirements, as well as mental health services.