Talks continue Monday into the combined budgets for the Division of Emergency Management, Department of Economic Opportunity, Department of State, Department of Transportation, Department of Military Affairs, and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. All told, this slice of the state budget pie amounts to just under $11.4 billion.
The conference committees have until Tuesday afternoon to compete negotiations before legislative leaders would handle unresolved issues.
One individual item negotiators for the House and Senate have agreed to support is a $200,000 study of consolidating the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority and Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.
Neither the Hillsborough nor Pinellas public transit agencies want to merge, but a bill passed in the last hour of the 2012 legislative session required them to split the costs up to $100,000 to study the issue.
The bill required the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority and Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority boards to identify opportunities to reorganize each agency, merge them, or consolidate functions within and between each agency.
After reluctantly studying the consolidation issue, HART and PSTA each voted to ask the Legislature for state funding for a desk audit to study possible savings if staff resources were shared, a recommendation to continue HART/PSTA Coordination Study Oversight Committee meetings and develop a HART/PSTA strategic coordination plan.
Senator Jack Latvala is driving the merger concept and has time and again urged the local entities to study how a merger could save costs. HART board members have been in near defiance of Latvala’s approach.