Florida Gov. Rick Scott chided President Obama for advancing a proposal for $21 billion in transportation infrastructure investments during a visit to the Port of Miami on Friday while not providing necessary federal funding for port facilities in the state.
At the Port of Miami, Obama urged Congress to pass an infrastructure package
that includes the creation of an infrastructure bank with $10 billion in start-up funds, $7 billion worth of tax reforms related to public works bonds and private investment, and $4 billion for another round of the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) multi-modal grant program in 2014.
“We’re glad Florida provided the president with a tremendous backdrop to highlight our state’s continued job growth – especially with today’s news that we dropped to 7.7 percent unemployment and have created more than 290,000 private-sector jobs in the past two years. In Florida, we’ve managed to grow jobs by cutting taxes, paying down debt and balancing the budget – a stark contrast to the ways of Washington.
“While we’re happy to host the president, we hoped to hear a commitment to reimburse Florida taxpayers the millions of dollars the state invested for the federal portion of port projects in Miami and Jacksonville. We hope this reimbursement will be included in the president’s budget proposal next week," Scott, a Republican, said in a statement.
In January, Florida committed $36 million to clear a navigation obstacle on the St. John's River so larger vessels can reach the Port of Jacksonville rather than waiting for Congress to fund the project. Port and state officials have been trying to secure funding for the Army Corps of Engineers to deepen that section of channel since 2006. In 2011, the state committed $77 million to cover the federal share of deepening the Port of Miami to help jump start the project.
Getting funding for deepening projects has been more difficult since the Republican majority in the House eschewed the use of earmarks during the last Congress. Port authorities now have to hope they can get funding requests included in the president's budget and that they make their way through the appropriation process, which has become more challenging as the federal government looks to bring down a $1 trillion annual deficit.
"In the meantime we will not wait on Washington," Scott said. "We will continue to invest in Florida ports so we make Florida a top hub for international commerce. Florida taxpayers have already invested $425 million in our ports to take advantage of the benefits of growing international trade, and we’ll continue making targeted port investments to grow jobs and opportunities for Florida families.”
The White House responded to Scott's plea for reimbursement in an e-mail to the Palm Beach Post
. "The president believes that the Port of Miami can enhance the competitiveness of workers and businesses throughout the region and in the nation as a whole. That's why the administration has taken a number of steps to fund and facilitate improvements at the port, including a $340 million TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) loan to help finance the Port of Miami tunnel project and a $23 million TIGER grant to restore freight rail service between the port and the Florida East Coast Railway, as well as completing the permitting for the port's dredging project on an expedited timeline last August as part of the administration's push to cut red tape around infrastructure construction," a spokeswoman said. - Eric Kulisch