In a continued push to increase spending on transportation and risk his credentials with tea party conservatives, Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday he is proposing $8.8 billion on “strategic transportation improvements” throughout the state.
That’s a 2 percent increase on what Florida is spending this year, or about $200 million. Scott made the announcement while visiting the Jacksonville Port Authority.
“From construction jobs to increased trade opportunities, transportation projects provide tremendous job and economic benefit,” Scott said, sounding a wee bit like John Maynard Keynes. “This investment will enable our state to remain competitive for years to come.”
Is this the same Scott of 2011? Upon entering office three years ago atop a wave of tea party discontent, Scott proposed a 7 percent budget cut as a way to mend Florida’s battered economy.
“We can't afford a government that runs wild with taxes, regulations and excessive spending," Scott told 1,000 conservative activists at the Villages.
Compare that to this year, where he’s talking about transportation spending as if it were a form of economic stimulus.
“Last year, we secured a record $8.6 billion for transportation investments and we continue to see tremendous results in Florida as we spur economic development and create jobs,” Scott said.
Scott chose JAXPORT to hit upon the record amount of money that’s getting spent on Florida ports in anticipation of the widening of the Panama Canal, which is about a year from completion. He mentioned that next year’s funding will include about $139 million in port spending.
(Keep in mind that the Scott years have reduced overall spending. A new Pew Charitable Trust report says Florida collects 21 percent less in tax revenue as of June 20, 2013 than it did during its pre-recession peak, giving the state significantly less spending power than it had seven years ago. Only Alaska and Wyoming are further behind in restoring their tax collections to pre-recession levels, the report found).
Yet exactly how Scott proposes to spend the new money is a mystery.
Dick Kane, spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation said no other detail was available. He said more specifics will be provided when Scott releases his budget in the coming weeks.
The News Service of Florida reports that other spending will include $3.8 billion for road construction, $192 million for bridge maintenance, $134 million for “safety initiatives” and $90 million for a 2.6-mile section of the Tamiami Trail west of Miami to improve the southern flow of the Florida Everglades. Other projects will include the expansion of Interstate 75 to six lanes south of Georgia and renovations of interchanges of Interstate 4, Interstate 95 and U.S. 92 as part of a major overhaul of the Daytona International Speedway corridor.