Improvements to Interstate 95 and the Palmetto Expressway are among the huge transportation projects slowed last week when Gov. Rick Scott signed an executive order freezing all pending contracts worth more than $1 million.
It's not clear yet how many contracts the order halted, but documents released late Tuesday by the govenor's office show it numbers dozens worth a total of nearly $500 million in the Department of Transportation alone. The list includes contracts for yet-to-begin projects and supplemental contracts for work already under way. Many of the projects are funded by federal stimulus money.
Under the executive order, for the next three months, no contract worth more than $1 million can go forward without approval by Scott's newly created Office of Fiscal Accountabiity and Regulatory Reform.
"The governor wanted to make sure nobody tried to buy another state airplane or build another Taj Mahal courthouse during the transition period, and now that the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform has been established, legitimate contracts are in the process of being cleared, even now," said Scott spokesman Brian Burgess in a prepared statement. Burgess didn't say which contracts would be cleared sooner rather than later.
The order affects transportation projects throughout the state, including purchases of cars for Central Florida's SunRail, the San Sebastian Bridge replacement in St. John's County, resurfacing of A1A in Indian River County and improvements to U.S. 19 in Pinellas County.
Update: Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston today called on Scott to immediately lift the freeze.
"With more than one million Floridians out of work, the last thing this state can sustain is the prospect of throwing even more people into the ranks of the unemployed or stopping others from getting hired," Rich said in a prepared statement. "It's time to move 'Let’s get to work' from bumper stickers into practice and allow these projects to begin."
Rich slammed Scott for creating another layer of bureaucracy for contracts already examined by bureaucrats. "If this is how the governor intends to get ‘government out of the way,’ it sure isn’t working," she said.