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House slashes affordable housing in bid to spend more on public safety, transportation

The House released details on its $11.5 billion budget on transportation, tourism and economic development on Tuesday, and it’s heavy on spending for road projects, public safety and cultural projects, but skimpy on spending for affordable housing.

“Great efforts were made to further the safety and security of our citizens,” said the chairman of the House appropriations committee on transportation and economic development, Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater.

While generous with transportation spending as well, the House proposes to spend $89.3 million from an affordable housing trust fund, established in 1992, on actual affordable housing. The House proposes to raid the rest of the trust fund, which has about $225 million, and spend it on other things.

By comparison, the Senate is proposing all of the $225 million in the trust fund, or $135 million more, on affordable housing.

Here are some highlights:

-- $9.8 billion in transportation, which is $136.5 million more than the Senate is proposing and $272 million more than Scott. The House fully funded the Department of Transportation’s $8.9 billion first year of its five-year work plan.

-- $10 million for Skyrise Miami, a thousand-foot observation tower and amusement center that developers hope will be South Florida’s “Eiffel Tower.” Neither the Senate nor Scott are proposing any money for the project.

-- $4 million for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The Senate proposes $1 million.

-- $750,000 for the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg. The Senate proposes $250,000.

-- $1 million for the Military Museum of South Florida in Miami-Dade, which is $800,000 more than what the Senate is offering.

-- $1 million to increase National Guard tuition increase, which is $700,000 less than the Senate.

-- Big construction expenses at Camp Blanding, the Florida National Guard’s training headquarters in Starke. The House, Senate and Department of Military Affairs all propose spending $7 million in federal money on the 72,000 acre facility, along with $16 million to build a reconnaissance range and $8.1 million for a machine gun range.

-- Like the Senate, $2 million for overtime for the Florida Highway Patrol. Unlike the Senate, $3.5 million for 28 FHP officers. To the chagrin of Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, the chair of the Senate committee, Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, hadn’t approved the funding for the troopers by this week. That omission led to Latvala asking for a quick infusion of troopers. “I’d like to see some permanent highway patrol positions added,” Latvala said Monday. “If you tell me which way I need to go to pound on which door, I’ll do that or draft up the amendment.”