Extending Spending Spree, Scott Asks for $200 Million Increase For Roads, Bridges and Ports
FlaglerLive | January 14, 2014
Gov. Rick Scott will ask lawmakers to increase funding to $8.8 billion for roads, bridges, ports and other transit needs in Florida as he continues to slowly roll out different aspects of his budget plan for next year.
Scott said Monday his “record” transportation funding proposal, $200 million more than in the current year, will further spur economic development and create jobs.
“When I came in, I said how do you get this economy growing?” Scott said during an appearance at the Jacksonville port, known as JAXPORT. “Tourism will do it, but the other thing was that we have to focus on building things.”
On Friday, Scott — who entered office in 2011 slashing a state budget he said was weighted down with “short-sided, frivolous, wasteful” projects — announced he will seek $100 million for the state’s tourism arm, Visit Florida, an increase of $35 million from the current year.
The proposal for the Department of Transportation on Monday includes $138 million for seaport improvements, $3.8 billion for road construction, $192 million for bridge maintenance, $134 million for safety initiatives, and $90 million to bridge a 2.6-mile section of the Tamiami Trail west of Miami to improve the southern flow of the Florida Everglades.
Scott will be in Miami on Tuesday to announce a funding proposal for the Department of Children and Families.
The funding requests will be included in Scott’s overall annual budget proposal, which will be sent to the Legislature before the 2014 session starts in March.
“This investment will enable our state to remain competitive for many years to come,” Scott said of his transportation proposal.
The Tamiami Trail project has been included in an ambitious $220 million Senate effort to redirect water and reduce pollutants out of Lake Okeechobee.
Ports funding has been a priority for Scott since taking office, with more than $640 million directed toward expanding the state’s 15 seaports since 2011. The focus, backed by state business groups, has been to make Florida a global shipping hub as the widening of the Panama Canal is expected to be completed in 2015.
“It’s not if but when Florida becomes the trade gateway to America,” FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad said.
Scott and lawmakers this year are heading into the budget-building process with a potential surplus of $1 billion.
Scott, who is up for re-election in the fall, has also asked lawmakers to slash $500 million in fees and taxes.
While detailed breakdowns, including most costs, are expected when Scott releases his overall budget proposal, the transportation projects Scott and Prasad highlighted include:
— Work on the Blount Island Marine Terminal at the Jacksonville port to increase operations and handle larger cargo.
— Expanding Interstate-75 to six lanes south of Georgia.
— Improving the interchange of I-75 and Florida’s Turnpike at Wildwood.
— The Homestead extension of Florida’s Turnpike.
— Improving the interchanges of Interstate 4, Interstate 95 and U.S. 92 as part of a revamping of the Daytona International Speedway corridor.
–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida