House passes Florida bill that would curb JTA administrative spending

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Legislation that would curb the spending of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority won a major victory Wednesday.


The bill passed the State House and will now go to the Senate.

Action News Jax’s Investigator Emily Turner has been digging into JTA’s finances for months. She reports that this would mean big changes at the top of the agency.

[DOWNLOAD: Free Action News Jax app for alerts as news breaks]

If the bill becomes law, it will force JTA to cut way back on how much it spends at the administration and corporate levels, curbing things like executive salaries, benefits and travel.

Action News Jax has told you about how JTA’s CEO makes more than $600,000 a year, plus benefits and travels all over the world on the taxpayer’s dime.

Read: Head of JTA gets high pay and big perks for questionable results

Rep. Shane Abbot sponsored the bill and said that overspending is exactly what he wants to change.

“If we are giving money for public transportation, that’s where it should be going. We’re trying to transport the public with that. If we have exuberant expenditures on admin fees, whatever that may be, could be salaries or other sectors, we want to make sure we are reigning that in,” Rep. Abbot said.

JTA administrative costs have ballooned by almost $6 million just this year to more than $33 million. More than $21 million of that pays for wages and benefits alone.

Read: Florida bill may bring sweeping changes to JTA after Action News Jax investigation

Here’s why that matters: Our reporting found that in the last 3 years, JTA’s bus operating expenses also jumped, but they’re doing less work. The system moves fewer people, covers fewer miles, operates fewer vehicles for fewer hours and runs less frequently than it did just 3 years ago.

Yet, it still fails to show up on time in a way that meets its own standards.

Read: INVESTIGATES: Whistleblower, passengers say JTA buses regularly run late, sometimes don’t show up

Industry experts have said the system is failing its riders, and at the same time, the people who run it are getting paid more.

Action News Jax is going to continue to stay on top of this story.

[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]

Click here to download the free Action News Jax news and weather apps, click here to download the Action News Jax Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Action News Jax live.