House stands ground on economic incentives, road funds

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In the late-night, back-and-forth negotiations Thursday over the transportation and economic development budget, the House held firm in its stand on fewer restrictions on the economic incentives coveted by Gov. Rick Scott, reports Gray Rohrer.

After the Senate did not budge from its position of having two separate pots for incentives — one with $73.3 million with few strings attached and another $36.6 million that  requires legislative approval to use — the House came back late Thursday with an offer that solidified its preference of $90.8 million in incentives with greater flexibility.

The two chambers also are divided on where to house road funds – incentive money for companies to help with traffic concurrency fees related to new projects. The House wants to allot $10.5 million for such funds and keep them under the Department of Economic Opportunity where those funds have traditionally been housed, whereas the Senate prefers to allocate $27.9 million in road funds and put them under the Department of Transportation.

A full compromise has yet to be reached on proviso language related to the transportation budget, but the two sides are getting closer after the House agreed in principle to the Senate’s plan to pull $200 million in vehicle fees and funnel them through the State Transportation Trust Fund, but immediately sweep the money into general revenue for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. In subsequent years, $10 million of those funds would go to seaport projects, $35 million would be diverted to the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, $10 million moved into the Transportation Disadvantaged Trust Fund, $10 million routed to the Small County Outreach Program and the rest would go to strategic transportation projects that “connect major markets within this state”.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.