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HART prepares for the legislative session and not expecting money from the 2018 transportation tax

HART bus parked at a bus stop
HART
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority is getting its state and federal legislative priorities ironed out before the start of the full state legislature convening in March.

Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration made it clear that he wants none of the $570 million collected from the now-defunct 2018 Hillsborough Transportation Tax to go toward public transit — like HART — and instead be refunded to taxpayers.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority is getting its state and federal legislative priorities ironed out before the start of the full state legislature convening in March.

The authority could have some obstacles as it tries to improve local public transit.

Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration made it clear that he wants none of the $570 million collected from the now-defunct 2018 Hillsborough Transportation Tax to go toward public transit — like HART — and instead be refunded to taxpayers.

During a committee meeting Monday, HART board member and Temple Terrace councilman Gil Schisler questioned why the authority is being blocked from the funding.

"Anybody got a feel for why there’s this sudden change?” Schisler asked. “'No, you're not getting a thing out of all these out of all these funds?’ I don't understand it. We've demonstrated time and time again the need, and we're not getting an opportunity at any of these fundings."

But policy advisors for HART say some of the money could still end up trickling down to the authority.

“I can't provide better detail, but what I can tell you is that's one of the reasons we think it's important as your advocate, to have conversations in Tallahassee to highlight the fiscal challenges we're currently facing,” said Kimberly Case, a senior policy advisor for Holland and Knight who represents HART at the state legislature.

“Depending on what the legislature — if they structure a refund program similar to what the governor outlined, which is a very good possibility [since] they work well together on these issues — is if they do that, whatever funds are remaining those funds will be sent to FDOT and then FDOT will be funding transportation projects in Hillsborough County.”

Case said if the money trickles down that far, it could be an opportunity for HART to get some of its public transit projects funded.

Meanwhile, Lisa Barkovic, federal senior policy advisor for the authority, said the county should focus on smaller projects based on the grants for which they can apply.

"We're thinking about focusing on projects around $3 million,” Barkovic said. “We have to have community support. They want to see letters. Nobody wants to ask for money where people are going to object to it. So looking at what other projects that we can be focusing on that improve, [that includes] ADA compliance, workforce development, security equipment, and other related infrastructure improvements like parking, bus wash stations and minor improvements at transfer stations.”

HART CEO Adelee Le Grand also said the authority is already in the process of applying for a federal grant to get funding for an Operations and Maintenance Center, and that it will continue applying for grants to move along other projects.

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