Florida officials are disputing the way the federal government is calculating how the state spends transportation funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The dispute arose after a congressional committee last week said that Florida ranked last among all states in spending its share of the transportation funds from the economic stimulus plan.
In a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist, U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman James Oberstar said that Florida had begun construction on highway projects totaling only 2% of the $1.35 billion set aside for it in the stimulus plan as of June 30.
“I strongly urge you to refocus your efforts to implement the Recovery Act and use the available funds to create and sustain family-wage jobs,” the Minnesota Democrat said.
Oberstar made similar comments in letters to Hawaii and South Carolina, which were also among the slowest in spending stimulus funds.
In a letter to Oberstar on Monday, Crist’s federal stimulus adviser Don Winstead and Florida Transportation Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos said they “firmly” believed that the analysis placing the state last on the list was based on outdated data that was more than a month old. The analysis was based on the percentage of projects out for bid, under contract, and underway.
As of July 31, Florida had advertised more than $959 million in projects and contracted more than $248 million of work, Winstead and Kopelousos wrote.
“While we believe that all of the state DOTs are doing an outstanding job in deploying Recovery Act funds, each is unique in its makeup, priorities, and manner in which they have chosen to deploy” the funds, they said, noting that Florida had opted against using stimulus funds to supplant projects that already had been funded by the state.
The two also argued that Florida law requires a more rigorous budgeting process, and time lines vary greatly depending on the type of project. In addition, the state has a higher percentage of large projects as opposed to less intensive projects like resurfacing.