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Miami-Dade warns of massive bus route cuts if state passes bill to correct surtax bait and switch

MetroRail

@NewsbySmiley and @doug_hanks

Commuters frustrated with Miami-Dade’s traffic woes and the diversion of money intended to pay for new mass transit routes may have a hero or a goat soon in their state government, depending on how things play out over the next few weeks.

Just past the midway point of Florida’s legislative session, a bill that seeks to shift nearly $100 million annually in voter-approved transit tax money out of transportation operations in order to fund new mass transit lines is moving through both chambers. The legislation would force the county to quickly honor a commitment made more than 15 years ago to use money from a “half-penny” sales tax to fund new commuter rail lines — which have mostly failed to materialize since the tax was approved.

Miami-Dade’s transportation department and some elected officials warn that the proposal would force drastic cuts and possibly the elimination of more than half of Miami-Dade’s bus routes. “It would have a devastating effect,” Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Thursday.

But the group of Miami lawmakers pushing the bill in the Florida House and Senate say that’s a worst-case scenario claim by a government that’s ignored the will of the voters for more than a decade and left the region with a worsening traffic problem.

“If Dade County was doing what they need to be doing, we wouldn’t be in this situation, having to correct a wrong,” Senate bill sponsor René García, R-Hialeah, said in an interview. “A bag was pulled over our heads.”

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