UPDATE: Dick Kane, communications director for Florida DOT, made this statement on May 27 regarding the potential impact of the sweep. "We are working to find further efficiencies and cost savings so that the impact of the sweep is minimal. In the coming weeks, we will know how individual projects might be impacted."

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed the state's budget into law yesterday, and vetoed approximately $615 million from the budget. More than $100 million in college projects were eliminated in the process. Also, a veto that Florida's transportation contractors had been hoping for didn't materialize. Legislators had approved a $150-million "sweep" of cash reserves from the State Transportation Trust Fund into general revenue coffers, a move which effects an estimated $334 million in projects.

Just prior to the announcement, media had speculated that Gov. Scott would, in fact, veto the sweep and restore the monies to the trust fund. But that didn't happen, largely because legislators tied those funds to education spending. Therefore, vetoing the sweep would have had the effect of cutting education spending even further.

Bob Burleson, president of the Florida Transporation Builders' Association, Tallahassee, issued the following statement in response.

“Gov. Scott signed the budget without a line-item veto of the $150-million sweep from the State Transportation Trust Fund (STTF). Due to the actions of the legislature, the multimillion-dollar raid was irrevocably tied to state education funding and because of this, our industry will suffer. We are beyond disappointed and frustrated with this development and the legislative course that has brought us to this point. Make no mistake, our disappointment and frustrations lie with the legislature. We remain confident the governor would have vetoed this measure if it were not tied to education funding.

"The Florida Transportation Builders’ Association urges the legislature to right their wrong. By deliberately making the STTF raid veto-proof, they have tied Gov. Scott’s hands and are responsible for the potential elimination of thousands of Florida jobs. If they cannot hold a special session, they should reverse this sweep through the Joint Legislative Budget Commission and ensure the $150 million is put back into the trust fund. With more than a $300-million negative impact on the Florida Dept. of Transportation’s work program and thousands of jobs at risk, the legislature should redistribute the state’s resources as a result of today’s other vetoes, and the pre-existing budget surplus, and put it back into transportation.

"Investing in Florida’s transportation infrastructure not only helps reduce the state’s worsening congestion problems, but it also aids in the state’s reemergence from our recent economic lows. Stripping funds from an industry which offers immediate economic stimulus is not the answer. In fact, for every $1 spent on road construction, $7 is returned to the economy.

"The Florida Transportation Commission reminds us the revenues found in the State Transportation Trust Fund are collected from transportation-related user fees to help develop, maintain and improve Florida’s transportation system. Using these fees other than for what they were collected to fund is bad public policy. We are disheartened that this is the route the legislature decided to take and look forward to the steps the governor offers to remedy it.”

We'll report more on this development later, including a list of impacted projects.