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Big bucks for Miami water projects

How do you shrink $1.2 billion in requested water projects down to about $70 million?

You cut. A lot.

Lawmakers gutted the initial list of 475 projects — and added some new ones at the last minute. Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, the Senate’s budget chairman for environmental issues, said lawmakers tried to keep things as fair as possible, even as they had to pick which projects got reduced funding, or none at all.

“Well, we were looking to try to be as effective as we could with the dollars, number one,” he said. “Number two, we wanted to try to be fair and distribute the resources all across the state as much as we could.”

Still, some counties are coming away with big chunks of change for water infrastructure, while others won’t get any at all.

Miami-Dade County is getting $6.48 million to help fund 23 projects, more than any other county in the state. Included are drainage work in Miami Gardens and Miami Lakes.

The Tampa Bay area will see a water projects boon, too: $7.53 million across Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties.

Lawmakers dropped in $1 million to hook up some Pasco County residents to a different water source. Another $1.9 million will go to a Dade City stormwater project.

In fact Hillsborough and Pasco counties account for nearly all of the Tampa Bay water project funding. The two counties have important residents to this budget process: Appropriations Chairs Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, and Tom Lee, R-Brandon.

But, Hays said, the fact that the budget chairs call these counties home doesn’t mean there was political patronage involved in securing coveted water money.

“I don’t see any significance there,” Hays said. “There’s plenty of money going to places that don’t have Senate or House leadership people, too.”

For example: Miami.