The Senate canceled $120 million in proposed funds to improve the area around the Moffitt Cancer Center’s next site, but the Senate Speaker wilton simpson is not affected by the move.
The Senate stood firm on development and infrastructure projects in the first round of budget talks this week, while the House twice offered no funding for the projects. But on Thursday, Senate negotiators relented, eliminating funds for two projects.
A project would be donate $106 million to Moffitt and Pasco County to connect the Cancer Center’s future 775-acre research campus in west-central Pasco County to surrounding roads and community. The roads would connect to a future Ridge Road extension, which the Senate also wanted to complete with $14 million.
The larger of the two projects would help the county build five connecting roads around the planned site. Funding would also cover a four-lane road, pedestrian bridge and associated water, storm and sewage infrastructure.
While the projects have disappeared from the budget for now, they could still reappear at later stages of the negotiations.
While both projects are sponsored by Clearwater Republican Sen. Ed Hooper, whose district includes Pasco County, Simpson is also of Pasco County. As Speaker of the Senate, Simpson wields considerable influence over the budget-drafting process.
When asked on Thursday if he was concerned the Senate was going to zero on ancillary projects around the site, about 40 miles from his backyard, Simpson told reporters “no.”
However, Republican Pace who is leading negotiations on the House infrastructure budget, Rep. Jayer Williamsonhas a different plan for that $120 million.
“It’s a really big item, so we’re going to use those dollars to spread it around the state a bit more,” Williamson said.
The area around the research facility will be a “live, work and play community” with homes, restaurants, retail spaces, trails and more. The county is asking for help to build transportation and infrastructure improvements.
Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Moffitt Cancer Center Tim Adams submitted the funding application, which argues that the development of the live-work-play community will improve economic development and employment opportunities in Pasco County.
“The construction of the roads, intersections, overpass and associated infrastructure is a critical element in providing opportunities for future job creation and economic development in Pasco County,” according to the funding request. “In addition, the addition of new recreational opportunities will provide residents with an outlet to exercise and be healthy. These results can be evidenced by the increase in jobs, available living spaces, tax base and available recreational spaces.
To help pay for the project, $25.6 million in federal COVID-19 funds were given to Florida to provide relief to suppliers.
Once development is complete, the project would connect the center to Sunlake Boulevard, State Route 52 and the future Ridge Road extension.
The Ridge Road project would connect western Pasco County to US Highway 41, Land O’Lakes Boulevard in central Pasco County. It would provide an escape route and improve mobility in the area.
“With the construction of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Central Pasco, it provides the connectivity needed for a rapidly growing and developing area of Central Pasco County,” according to the funding request.
This project, submitted to the state by the county, has already received $ 108 million in federal funds against the pandemic.
If the funding ends up in the budget, it wouldn’t be the first time lawmakers have thrown a bone at the Moffitt Cancer Center under Simpson and House Speaker. Chris Sprowsa Palm Harbor Republican and cancer survivor.
A last-minute Senate amendment slipped into last year’s tax return redirected millions of new dollars to support the Moffitt Cancer Center by increasing its share of the cigarette tax. Increasing Moffitt’s share of the cigarette tax from 4.4% to 7% in fiscal year 2023-24 and to 10% by then through 2054 results in an increase of over $11 million at each stage.
The $106 million spending request is the second-largest local funding request from the Senate side.
The biggest is a $125 million proposal to build a health care campus at Florida State University and Tallahassee Memorial Hospital in Panama City Beach — sponsored by Simpson.
Lawmakers have until Tuesday to prepare the budget for passage at the scheduled end of the session.
Also in the Senate health spending plan is $20 million per year for 30 years for Moffitt to build and develop the new site. However, the House did not agree to these expenditures, which would total $600 million by the end of the proposal (SB 2526).
Simpson said the new facility will rival any cancer research center on the planet once it’s complete.
“I hope the House takes that,” Simpson said. “Obviously we’re looking at trying to speed up this process because when we’re done it will literally mean tens of thousands of lives will be saved from cancer each year.