Transportation Authority Turns to Car-Rental Fees

After another failed try to win approval of a $2-a-day rental car fee to expand Tri-Rail and build new bus and commuter rail projects, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority recently contemplated a different strategy, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Instead of asking state lawmakers again next year to approve a new surcharge, the authority talked about tapping into a rental car fee that's been on the books for more than 15 years.

The Legislature approved a $2 rental car fee last year, only to have former Gov. Jeb Bush veto it at the last minute. The surcharge would have brought in about $48 million to $50 million annually and when leveraged with state and federal grants would have given the authority about $1.2 billion for improvements. This year, however, the bill never made it to the floor of the House or Senate for a vote.

Board members are now turning to a fee approved in 1990 that was originally set at 50 cents-a-day but later raised to $2. The money goes to transportation and tourism programs. The transportation department has been using its share on tourist-related security initiatives, but in the 2007-08 budget the money will be divided among the DOT's local districts.

According to the Palm Beach Post, the state has already put the authority on notice that it intends to reduce and eventually terminate its assistance to Tri-Rail, once it has a dedicated source of money for future operations. The DOT gave Tri-Rail about $19 million this year, including $12 million for operations. Its contribution will increase to $13.1 million next year.

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