When President Barack Obama visits South Florida on Friday Gov. Rick Scott wants him to commit to repaying the Sunshine State for covering the federal government’s portion of improvements being made at the ports in Miami and Jacksonville, reports Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida.
Obama is expected to spend several hours in Miami, where he is to make remarks on the economy at PortMiami, according to a White House release.
At Scott’s direction, the state put up $75 million in 2011 to advance the dredging of the Miami port from 42 feet to 50 feet. In January, another $36 million in state Department of Transportation funds was directed toward a terminal container project that would allow the Jacksonville Port Authority to use its money to fix navigational problems in the St. Johns River at Mile Point.
“These dollars should have been paid by the federal government,” Scott said during a teleconference on Thursday.
“Florida taxpayers have stepped up time and time again to fund …. projects in Miami and Jacksonville to support thousands of jobs for Florida families.”
Scott directed the money as part of a push to build the state’s transit infrastructure to meet growing global trade and in anticipation of the 2015 completion of the expansion of the Panama Canal, which is expected to attract larger vessels and draw more Asian traffic.
Last July, Obama included PortMiami and JaxPort with three others – the Port of Savannah in Georgia, the Port of Charleston, S.C., and the Port of New York and New Jersey – to receive expedited federal infrastructure reviews.
Scott said Obama “is late to the party” on the need to build up the ports.
PortMiami Director Bill Johnson said there has been a strengthening of support from Washington, D.C. for the ports, particularly from Florida’s Congressional delegation, but that Congress still lags in funding for the nation’s port and freight infrastructure.
“The United States as a whole and Congress really needs to step up to finance and fund through appropriations the process, the projects, the governor is describing,” Johnson said. “If you cannot move your people and goods and, if you cannot timely, efficiently, safely move container (ships) and cruise passengers, you’re not going to be competitive, you’re not going to continue to grow and create high paying jobs.”