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Florida Lawmakers Want Cities To Start Paying Utilities' Construction Costs

Project leader points his construction crew to fix concrete levels on the side of the road.
Caitie Switalski

Legislation is heading to the House floor that would give Florida utilities a break from construction costs. Critics claim it could end up costing taxpayers more.

Under current law, utility companies pay to relocate utility lines out of public construction areas. But bills in the House and Senate would place the burden on local governments. Megan Sirjane-Samples of the Florida League of Cities says the bill would unfairly transfer costs to taxpayers. She uses herself as an example.

“I don’t have cable or a landline at my house, so why am I gonna have to pay to relocate equipment that I don’t even use, I’m not even a benefactor of,” Sirjane-Samples says.

She says local governments have told her they could have to increase property taxes to pay for relocations, since they’re not included in the budget. 

But bill sponsor Senator Anitere Flores says cities are getting the benefits of growth without having to pay the costs.

“And I think that our locally elected officials, just the same way as statewide elected officials, as all elected officials should be honest about the cost that comes with that expansion," Flores says. "And it’s very easy to say, ‘Well, there’s not really a cost,’ because some other person’s gonna pay for it, it’s gonna be buried in your utility bill or in your electric bill, your water bill, whatever it is.”

The Senate bill has already passed the floor. The House will take up the proposal Tuesday.

Ashley Tressel is a senior Communication and English student at Florida State University. Before WFSU, she interned at the Executive Office of the Governor and The Borgen Project, a national nonprofit for global poverty. She also wrote freelance for Carbonated.tv, a multimedia news site and served as managing editor for the FSU International Programs magazine, Nomadic Noles, in Valencia, Spain. After graduation, Ashley plans to embark on her journalism career somewhere in Colorado.