Hundreds of Florida transportation contractors descended upon Tallahassee last week to rally against a pending $160-million raid of the State Transportation Trust Fund and to encourage Gov. Charlie Crist to use his veto power to stop it. It�s the last hope to stop the transfer of funds, says Robert G. Burleson, president of the Florida Transportation Builders Association of Tallahassee.
“We are putting all of the pressure we can – meaning phone calls, emails, access to the governor’s office – from our members and their employees to get him to consider a veto,” Burleson says. “I don’t think it’s out of the question. There’s a chance he might do it. It’s all about jobs, and he’s made jobs one of the keynotes of his campaign for the Senate.”
Gov. Crist has recently vetoed two other pieces of legislation considered as top priorities by the current legislature’s Republican leadership.
Burleson has stated that a “sweep” of $160 million from the State Transportation Trust Fund’s cash balance would result in an estimated $400 million to $450 million in projects being moved out of next year’s work program.
Approximately $40 million would be returned to the highway trust fund if the state receives its expected allotment of Medicaid funding from the federal government. That would make the final trust-fund deduction $120 million.
The Florida Dept. of Transportation would not provide an estimated impact on next year’s work program. FDOT public spokesman Dick Kane said the department was continuing to work with the legislature on the matter.
FTBA has estimated the reduced funding puts 11,000 jobs in jeopardy.
The $160 million cut represents a compromise between the original budgets of the House and Senate. The House budget originally transferred approximately $460 million from the transportation fund to the general fund, while the Senate budget contained no “sweep” of highway trust fund dollars.