Dade County asks state to fund $250 million in projects
By Lou Ortiz
Miami-Dade County wants the state to bankroll more than $250 million in local projects next year and provide the area some sort of break for helping to build a new Florida Marlins stadium.
Most of the money sought by the county is in transportation and department projects, including $157 million for bridge replacements and repairs, according to the 2008 legislative agenda approved by the county commission in December.
The agenda lists more than 140 items, ranging from requests for enactment of state laws to funding for various projects, along with requests by individual commissioners for their districts.
The county's legislative delegation, with 25 members, works to help pass agenda items in Tallahassee.
Republican State Rep. Juan C. Zapata is chairman of the county's legislative delegation and Democratic Rep. Luis Garcia Jr. is vice chairman.
"During these challenging times for Florida it is more important than ever that the largest delegation [in the state] be united to benefit our county and in providing leadership to our state," Mr. Zapata said in a statement.
The county, like other governmental bodies in the nation, seeks funding from both state and federal sources. Some of the state funding requests are also included in Miami-Dade's 2008 federal legislative agenda.
While the county seeks unspecified funding in the federal agenda for bridges, the state is being asked to specifically fund the repair of 95 bridges and replace 12 Venetian causeway bridges.
They include the Tamiami Canal Historic Swing Bridge and the Old William Powell Bridge.
The other big request is $40 million to complete the north and east-west Metrorail extensions, the purchase of buses, transit security and the construction of pedestrian overpasses.
The overpasses would be built over US 1 at the 27th Avenue, South Miami, University and Dadeland South Metrorail stations.
Aviation is also high on the list with more than $7.5 million in requests. The money would be used for such things as a runway extension at Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport and the installation of a system to scan the airfield at Miami International Airport for metal objects, birds and wildlife, among other things.
Other agenda requests include:
$20 million to fund indigent care at Jackson Health Systems.
$13 million to make county court facilities more accessible to people with disabilities.
$6 million to increase shooting and add larger range targets at the Trail Glades Range for state and local law enforcement and residents.
$3.8 million for relocation of the Mildred Pepper Senior Center.
$3.5 million for the MetroZoo's Amazon and Beyond exhibit.
$1.6 million for beach erosion repairs.
The Florida Marlins are also mentioned indirectly in the county agenda.
Commission Chairman Bruno A. Barreiro is asking the state for "a sales tax rebate or similar benefit related to the construction of a publicly-owned stadium for a Major League Baseball franchise in Miami-Dade County," the agenda memo says.
The county and the City of Miami are proposing to help build a $525 million stadium for the Marlins. The county and city would pay $370 million of the cost, with the team adding $155 million.
Included in the agenda are legislative requests and resolutions passed by county commissioners. Among them is a resolution asking the state not to eliminate $10.2 million in the budget to fund fledging medical school programs at Florida International University and the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
The county recently approved giving FIU $10 million in interest- earnings from the Miami-Dade's $2.9 billion General Obligation Bond program that voters passed in 2004.
Commissioners also want the state to pass legislation urged by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau to license tour guides.
Rental cars are a target of the county's agenda too. Miami-Dade wants a state law that would allow county surcharges on car rentals so the money can be used to help fund the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority.
The agency was created by the state in 2003 to develop and implement economical transportation services in South Florida.
And, if the county gets its way, predatory lending would be a crime in Miami-Dade.
The county wants the state to "identify and define predatory lending and create criminal penalties for violations," the agenda memo says.
But the county tells the legislature that it opposes state or federal laws that would bar the county from suing firms that rent hotel rooms on the Internet to recover unpaid bed taxes.
Overall, the county asks the state not to reduce or eliminate any of its current support to any Miami-Dade programs, or burden the area with unfunded state mandates.
In support of the county's state agenda is the Miami-Dade Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, which coordinates legislation and appropriations with state and federal lawmakers.
The office keeps the county mayor, manager, commissioners and departments informed on the agenda's progress.