Once again, LobbyTools' coverage of the budget and budget meetings was exceptionally accurate and timely.
Transportation groups step on pedal in calling for veto of trust fund sweep
As Gov. Rick Scott mulls over the budget, transportation groups sent a letter and nearly 3,600 petition signatures on Monday asking the governor to veto a proposed transfer of $150 million out of the state's main road-building fund.
The Florida Transportation Builders Association and eight other groups, including Florida TaxWatch and the Associated Industries of Florida, sent a letter to Scott asking him to veto the proposed sweep from the state transportation trust fund.
FTBA estimates that the trust fund transfer would reduce the Florida Department of Transportation work program by $301.4 million and could potentially eliminate more than 8,400 jobs in the state.
"Florida's transportation industry has always been a key element in the strength of our state's economy," wrote Bob Burleson, FTBA president. "We know that for every $1 spent on road construction, $7 is returned to the economy."
Burleson also notes in the letter the impact the sweep could have on Scott's recent push to prepare Florida's ports for the 2014 expansion of the Panama Canal. Burleson writes in the letter that if a solid transportation foundation is not established in the state "Florida could jeopardize its chance to fully take advantage of this unique trade opportunity."
The trust fund sweep is nothing new, however, as the recent proposal marks the third year in a row that lawmakers have proposed taking money out of the road-building fund that is funded primarily from gas taxes. In 2009, a trust fund sweep of $120 million was approved, while in 2010 then-Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed a proposed $160 million sweep.
The trust fund dollars, however, are tied to education funding, and the $150 million would require additional cuts to public schools. In 2010, the Legislature attempted something similar but Crist used his line-item veto power to eliminate the sweep and the proviso language directing the money to education. Top Republicans asserted Crist's actions were illegal, but they did not challenge them in court.
Lawmakers recommended the trust fund sweep as part of their overall proposal to eliminate a nearly $4 billion budget shortfall. But Doug Callaway, president of Floridians for Better Transportation, sounded confident that Scott would veto the sweep.
"He's a pro-jobs governor and a raid on the trust fund would eliminate jobs," said Callaway. "So I am optimistic that he will do the right thing and line-item veto the trust fund raid in the budget."