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Palm Beach County to seek $23M and more from Trump, Congress

Palm Beach County is hoping Congress approves — and President Donald Trump signs — about $23 million worth of projects this year, according to a review of the county’s federal wish list.

On Tuesday, one day after Trump returned to Washington, D.C. from his mansion in Palm Beach — and only a few days from his possible return this weekend — commissioners approved that wish list.

The $23 million does not include huge grants the federal government provides to local law enforcement agencies, nor does it include reimbursement for the ever-escalating security assistance costs the county incurs when the president returns to his part-time home.

In addition to reimbursement for those security costs and the continuation of those law enforcement grant programs, county officials want $23 million for specific projects like improvements to Palm Tran technology and bus shelters and road and water projects in the Glades.

County officials are also hoping for clarifications of fair housing rules that relate to sober homes. And they oppose a possible end of the tax-exempt status for municipal bonds, which opponents fear would make it harder for local governments to sell them.

It’s not clear where the administration or Congress stands on those issues.

“Things are moving quickly with the new administration, the new Cabinet and even a new member of the delegation,” said Rebecca De La Rosa, the county’s new legislative affairs director.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, was sworn in in January, succeeding Patrick Murphy, who was unsuccessful in challenging U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Mast has gotten seats on congressional subcommittees dealing with transportation, economic development, water resources and Coast Guard and maritime transportation.

He recently hosted U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the House of Representatives. Shuster got an aerial tour of area water projects.

The county is seeking $1 million for water projects in the Glades and another $2.5 million for road projects in that area.

Palm Tran would get a big chunk of federal money — $7 million for technological improvements, $11.8 million for an overhaul of bus shelters, and $2.3 million to replace a maintenance facility in Delray Beach.

No county request has gotten more attention than its hope to be reimbursed for helping with security during Trump visits to his Palm Beach mansion, Mar-a-Lago.

“It’s certainly an expense we are incurring at a local level,” Assistant County Administrator Todd Bonlarron said.

Congress has set aside $7 million to reimburse state and local governments for assisting with security during Trump visits, but New York City, where Trump also has a residence, has requested $35 million, an amount that far outstrips the amount already set aside.

Commissioner Mack Bernard said he wants the county to take advantage of its proximity to people in Trump’s circle.

“See who is close to the president and his team so we can explore all aspects of reimbursement,” he said.

The president has not given any indication of whether he believes local governments should be reimbursed for assisting with security when he visits.

Trump has said he wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The president has said NAFTA is a boon to Canada and Mexico but is harmful to American workers.

“I haven’t talked to any farmer who doesn’t think NAFTA hasn’t been a disaster,” Commissioner Hal Valeche said Tuesday. “I know the administration has some questions about it.”

Valeche asked if the county would be urging opposition to NAFTA and was told that the county will try to make sure administration officials know of its priorities if the agreement is renegotiated.

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