The Legislature is staring at a $3.2-billion deficit, but that doesn't mean lawmakers can't scare up some money for member projects -- especially in an election year when it's important to take something home to the constituents.
In the Senate Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committee, chairman Mike Fasano has tentatively approved spending about $2-million for hurricane shelters and cultural facilities in the districts of a handful of senators.
One of the biggest line items is $750,000 for the Mike Fasano Regional Hurricane Shelter, located in the town of Hudson in Fasano's district. The money would help the Premiere Health agency get up and running to provide health care to the indigent. The line item surfaced for the first time on Wednesday as "Regional Hurricane Shelter, Pasco County Community Health Center."
"There are member projects every year. You know that," Fasano said. "I don't have any problem telling somebody that I wanted to fund a community health facility that will help the uninsured and the underinsured."
Fasano said Thursday's hearing would provide a full public airing for other member projects in the districts of Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland; and Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville.
But it's not as if Dockery or any of the other members proactively asked for the money. Fasano said he asked his staff to call the committee members to see if they had any projects they wanted to fund, and a Dockery aide mentioned the chapel in the senator's district.
-- Steve Bousquet